January can be a time for new resolutions and big plans for the coming year. Scott Morgan says he’s simply looking forward to doing “normal stuff.”
“I want to spend time with my family,” says the 55-year-old father of four and grandfather of nine. “More golfing, working in the yard, riding bikes — all the things I haven’t been able to do for years.”
Morgan made history last fall when he became the milestone 400th person to receive a heart transplant at Sharp Memorial Hospital. His surgery came just days after the hospital celebrated the 30th anniversary of its heart transplant program.
In October 1985, Sharp Memorial became the first hospital in San Diego — and only the fourth in California — to perform the operation. Today, Sharp is recognized as a national leader in heart transplantation for its innovation and success, and has one of the country’s highest one-year survival rates.
Morgan’s surgery was somewhat unexpected. Because of his 6-foot, 8-inch height, Morgan needed a donor that was at least 6 feet tall and also matched his rare B blood type. Doctors thought he would spend years waiting for a perfect match; he received the call in less than a year.
Morgan began experiencing heart rhythm problems in his early 20s. His condition worsened until he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure four years ago.
In 2013, he received a mechanical heart pump at Sharp Memorial Hospital called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which kept him alive until he was ready to be transplanted. Morgan, who sold his tuxedo business because of his declining health, began raising money to help other LVAD patients adapt to life with the device.
“The LVAD saved me,” says Morgan, who also volunteers his time to counsel new patients getting the pump. “It got me to the point where I am now.”
Morgan says spending the holiday season at home, with his new heart, was an emotional experience. He joked that his family kept the celebrations “low-key” — only about 20 people came together versus the usual 50 to 60. He and his wife, Cissy, spent New Year’s Eve babysitting two of their grandchildren. At midnight, they all went outside and banged pots and pans together.
Morgan says he is looking forward to 2016 and all the years ahead of him. He plans to continue his work with the LVAD community and other outreach he can do with heart transplant patients.
“I think a lot about how I got two chances. Some people don’t get any,” Morgan says. “There’s a reason for that, so I better use it. I got to make the best of it.”