“John, we have a heart for you.”
Are there moments in life, which as they happen, we know we will recall for the rest of our lives? Moments that will change our lives? Perfect moments?
On September 25, 2017, Dr. Sylvestry came to my hospital room and said, “John, we have a heart for you.” I knew I would live. I knew the cost; a man had died that day. I had lived in that room for more than eight weeks, my life supported by machines. That was the moment I knew I was to receive the Gift of Life from a still unknown donor.
I had come from the precipice of death, coded multiple times, skinny, sick, in a wheelchair, and told I might need a walker the rest of my life. Now, I can walk three miles in 53 minutes. I take dancing lessons, and dance with my friends twice a week. I am back to work, having made seven trips to China with my new heart. I am planning a trip to Munich and Cologne in December, a wonderful place to be for the Christmas season. From Munich, I will take a train to Switzerland, across the Alps to Florence. I am grateful, and living a dream.
Can you imagine for a moment what it is like to be alive, not just alive, but living a full life, only because of the goodness and gracious Gift of Life from a stranger? I can. It isn’t really a matter of thinking of the Gift of Life every day. That does not describe it. The Gift of Life is who I am.
The heart I received on September 25, 2017 defines me. I am a heart transplant recipient. There is a long list of good people, not just a donor, who helped me live. There are those who visited, waited, encouraged, and sacrificed for me. They helped me stay alive, just one more day. One more day had to be how I lived. There was nothing beyond one more day. It was the key to survival. The ultimate act of a survivor is living in the moment. Now, I practice living that way. There is no meaningful future for me; there is only this moment.
I live a grateful life. Sometimes, life gets in the way, but never so much that my physical, mental or spiritual health is at risk. I have learned, have permitted, that a little help from my friends makes me whole.
My life has changed in many ways, and I like it. My plan was to be in the South Pacific, sitting on a beach, my sailboat, Ariadne, in a quiet anchorage. South Africa would be in the plan as I prepared to finish my circumnavigation. I didn’t complete that dream, but lived another; that of a survivor, a heart transplant recipient. I am a better man for this path. My life has been one of adventure, but my life has been made nearly whole by living a life that is a Gift.
When Life is a Gift, every day, every friend, every smile, is meaningful.
Thank you to everyone who helps me live this moment.