I was born with a bad heart. Basically everything everyone else’s heart does mine worked opposite. I had a surgery called transposition of the great arteries (Mustard Procedure) at one years old. The surgery is so obsolete in 2009 when they did mine in 1975, I was one of the last babies to ever had this type of thing done. It was always known I would one day need a heart transplant. No one knew when.
The surgery placed a metal slide in my heart, that would take the blood from the wrong vessel and re-route it to where it was supposed to go. Despite being advised not to play sports as a kid, I played everything from football, to hockey to baseball to eventually weight lifting then into power lifting. Athletics was later credited as a strong reason for me making it over 30 years with a heart that never did work at greater than 15%.
When I hit 30 years old the heart simply began to fall apart on me. It had grown far too large and was straining far too much trying to compensate for ever failing. 4 1/2 years ago I had major heart failure, resulting in having massive organ failure. A priest was called in for Last Rights. When I made it through he night they air-lifted me by helicopter to University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor. I would recover from this attack, but close to the end.
Over the next several years I spent most of my time in and out of the hospital, being followed by a large group of cardiologists on a regular basis. After suffering a 4th bout of pneumonia, and my third fight with heart failure in 4 years, U of M hospital placed me on the Heart Transplant Organ Donor List on May 8th of 2009.
Responding well to a temporary medicine (one that kept my now dead heart pumping blood to my body) that kept me alive by being intravenously fed through a tube that went into my bicep, passed my shoulder and neck, I was able to leave the hospital and wait on the donor list at home.
On Sept. 6th of 2009 after continued loss in heart function, I was brought back to the hospital to sit a top the 1A list for a new heart.
On November 22nd, almost 3 months after being admitted, the doctors entered my room at 10pm and said they had found me a heart.
After a 7 hour surgery (normally takes 10-12) that could not have gone better, I am now blessed with a gift from God.
I prepared my whole life for this. I never got scared. I never got down, or cracked. Never gave up. Never gave myself an option B. I pushed forward and thanks to my positive attitude I did so well both during and after the surgery I was able to come home only 8 days after the transplant.
This tattoo – S U R V I V O R across my knuckles represents everything about this part of my life spanning 34 years. I have many tats. None of them even come close to meaning as much as this one does to me.
The tattoo was done by Randy Vollink of Vicious Ink and Piercings, Rochester Hills MI