Life after (heart) transplant

It is the moments that define life. The cooperation of all the moments, each attaching to the preceding, give shape to life. Some of those moments are spectacular, others mundane, while some make me wish, at times, that I could go back. But I cannot, none of us can, and, to embrace F. Scott Fitzgerald, “So we beat on, boats against the current…” In 2001, a cardiologist in a heart failure program told me without expression, “You’re going to need a new heart.” It is certain that he had shared this news with countless patients and was immune to its effect. I remember that day well. And, I am glad that I do. My heart, a victim of a crude viral infection in 1996- endocarditis- was growing larger and less efficient with each passing moment. I suffered a brain aneurysm in 1996 and the resulting emergent surgery left me with the infection which had its way with the valves and lining of my heart. The repair and clip of the aneurysm was a success, but there was damage to the heart; damage, I would come to find out years later, that could not be reversed nor repaired. In 1997, mechanical valves were inserted to replace the mitral and aortic versions with which I was born. This surgery was also an initial success, but over time, the heart muscle grew tired, rigid, and was unable to perform the duties for which it was designed. That was then. Today I live an active and full life, one teeming with work, family, friends, and travel. Thanks to the gift of life via a heart transplant in March 2006, that is old news, really. After nearly a decade of living with the fear of not knowing whether or not my heart would continue to beat- pushing necessary blood throughout the body- I received a perfectly matched donor heart. So, what is life like after a (heart) transplant? Well, that is precisely the focus of this blog- life after (heart) transplant. My name is David Hebestreit and I am a 39 year old heart transplant recipient, a high school teacher, soccer coach, and advocate for organ donation, obviously. In short, life after transplant is glorious. The cliches all apply: I live life to its fullest, squeezing every ounce out of each day; I am thankful for the second chance and want to give back what I have received; each day, a blessing, so on and so forth…you see what I mean. Certainly, I have a new perception of the moments that give buoyancy to life. These moments are important and cannot be allowed to simply drain away like rain water. This is because there is so much in between and among the moments that combine to make up each day of my new life, that I find it difficult not to share them. And it is in these moments and about their substance that I will write. I suppose it is calming to share them, but also it is in thankfulness that I share them, for without a supportive community- caring friends, family, and co-workers- these words likely would not have been shared. But, here they are shared.

 

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