Heart transplant saves father’s life
Everyone could save 30 lives. By being an organ donor, you could send body parts to 30 people and make their lives better.
My father, Gary Peters, was diagnosed with congestive cardiomyopathy in 1998, which turned into congestive heart failure (CHF) soon after.
Two years later he was forced to retire. He was only 52 and still enjoyed working, but the doctors wouldn’t let him continue because of his condition.
A few years passed without many problems until August 5, 2004. My dad was in the Veteran’s Association (VA) hospital in Des Moines for a checkup. I was standing by his bed in room 316 when alarms started going off and the nurses rushed my family into the hall.
My father was wheeled into the intensive care unit (ICU) so he could be watched on a constant basis. The doctors told us he had an overactive thyroid which can be very dangerous.
He was in the hospital for a month during which time he died four times and went through eleven other illnesses that would normally kill a man.
At one point, the doctors said he’d have to be put on dialysis. My dad had a ‘do not resuscitate’ order and my mom decided to pull the plug.
The machines became silent and stopped helping him live. Then, what we believe to be a miracle from God, my dad started breathing on his own.
Two days later he was awake and aware of his surroundings for the first time since he got to the hospital.
He finally got out of that VA hospital and went to the one in Minneapolis to have pacemaker put in. Then he came back to Hampton, but had to stay in a nursing home.
When he finally got home, we had a wheelchair ramp built for him and everything we could get to keep him happy.
Many hospital visits later, in March of 2009, my dad started planning for a heart transplant.
Then, in August, his heart began going off beat and his pacemaker shocked him over and over until it ran out of a charge. He went to Mason City to get a new one put in.
On October 1, 2009 he was put on the transplant list in Washington D.C. One month later he went to Madison, Wisconsin for a week to try to get on their list.
A week later my parents still weren’t back home. The doctors had more for him to do and didn’t want him leaving the city. The VA paid for their hotel. My mom told me that she had no idea when they’d be back.I went through my birthday without them and then went up to see them on Thanksgiving.
Then in December, the doctors said that he needed to have a Left Ventricle Assist Device (LVAD) put in.
An LVAD uses battery power to continuously push the blood through the heart. Even though my dad wasn’t healthy enough for the operation, he would only live for two more weeks without it.
The doctors told us the extremely low chances for living through it. We all nodded and shrugged our shoulders because we hear that every time he’s in the hospital. The LVAD was put in without a problem and they were back at the hotel on New Year’s Eve.
My dad told me many times that I was his motivation for doing all of this. I made him promise that he would live to see me graduate from high school and he was determined to keep that promise.
During the next few months, he went through infections and anemia. My mom would call me to keep me up to speed on everything and then I would call the family in Hampton. Every time we would worry about whether he’d make it and every time he pulled through.
Finally, my graduation came. The doctors reluctantly gave him permission to leave for the weekend and come back ASAP. My dad was really eager to come home and so was everyone else, so he and my mom snuck out of the hotel an entire week early. The doctors weren’t happy but my parents sure were.
On August 12, 2010 he was finally put on the heart list in Madison.
On October 24 -26, my dad got the flu. This illness just happened to make him the best choice for transplant because prior to that he had been considered too healthy compared to others.
The next day, a heart came in and they got the call. I was at work at the Fareway in Hampton when my Aunt Peggy called me.
Then, my brother, Brian Plendl, came into the store. We decided that we’d leave first thing the next morning.
Dad had the surgery on the 28th and was sitting and standing the next day. On the 30th he was walking through the halls and we all watched in amazement at how fast he recovered.
My brothers and I went back up for Thanksgiving, and this time we ate in the hotel instead of the hospital room.
On December 24, the greatest Christmas present in history, my dad came home. The waiting was over and it was time to relax.
As I said in the beginning, each person can save 30 lives. If one person decides to be an organ donor, he or she can make this happen for 30 people. There are thousands of people waiting, and thousands who can help.