Nearly nine months ago Mr. Wanton, my husband, had a heart transplant. Because of his blood type (A+), he was fortunate to have a relatively short wait on the transplant list. A new heart became available to him less than six months after being placed on the list. Some wait years. Some run out of time.
Of course a heart comes from a deceased donor, unlike some instances when a kidney or a partial liver comes from a living donor. We all have only one heart, no spare parts to share. His heart came from someone who was clinically brain-dead but still had healthy organs. The person’s brain was functionally deceased, which is most often due to some sort of accident such as motor-vehicle incident, or perhaps a drug overdose. The donor organ often comes from a young, otherwise healthy person. We do not know anything about his donor. We may never receive any information about them.
There are no words to describe the depth of gratitude we have for the person who gave my husband the gift of their heart, or their grieving family who ultimately made the final decision for their loved one’s organs to be donated. “Thank you” is just so small.
Though Mr. Wanton was not on the list long, his journey to get there was not an expedient one. He was first diagnosed with heart failure due to a suspected viral cardiomyopathy as a result of a typical seasonal flu virus seven years prior. Then for two years before his transplant he was being kept alive by a mechanical heart pump – an LVAD, which is portable life support often referred to as a “bridge to transplant”. Mr. Wanton was plugged into the wall at night by an electrical cord I called “his leash”. He carried rechargeable batteries the size of VHS tapes on his body during the day to keep the pump flowing, his heart going.
Understandably my focus was on Mr. Wanton for the last few years. He has recovered well. It is now time for us to return to regularly scheduled life. It is time for me, to return to me.