Feb. 14 isn't just Valentine's Day. It's also National Donor Day, a day to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation. More than 117,000 people in the U.S. are currently waiting for an organ transplant. Below is the story of Ed Thompson, whose heart transplant at UPMC in 2009 saved his life.
By Matt Thompson
|Ed Thompson with his son, Matt, and |
granddaughters Tiegan and Taylor.
My dad, Ed, had a history of heart problems. After multiple heart attacks, bypass
surgeries and stents, his last attack damaged his heart and he was quickly dying. We were nervous and excited when we found out
he made the list for a heart transplant: excited because there was a ray of
hope, nervous because being almost 70 years old put him well beyond the age that one
typically goes through this procedure.
We prepared for what we felt was the most probable outcome, and tried
to be sure nothing good was left unsaid.
In March of 2009, we got the call that he was on the way to UPMC, so we
all headed from our various locations to Pittsburgh. My brother and I were able to see him just as
they were taking him back for the procedure and gave him a hug, what we thought
may be our last time.
It was a very long night, but we were always pleased to get updates
from the staff. After what I believe was
12 hours, Dr. Jay Bhama told us the surgery was over, and it was touch and
go. Because of some significant
complications, my dad was at death’s door for several weeks and eventually all
of his organs shut down. We could tell
that many of the staff were just waiting for him to pass, but we knew Dr. Bhama
still believed there was hope. It was an
amazing three-month journey that allowed me to see a lot of people pulling together
under a great doctor and leader, and my dad eventually regaining consciousness
and surprising most of his caregivers.
He eventually graduated from ICU and was finally released from the
hospital. He was still very much at
risk, but he was making progress.
Fast forward to 2013. It’s been
almost four years since his heart transplant and more than a year beyond his kidney
transplant (his own kidneys never recovered), and he’s still going strong. Today, in fact, he will be celebrating
Valentine’s Day with his daughter and her children – in Atlanta! Since he’s recovered from the transplants,
he’s been travelling, welcoming grandbabies into the world, attending weddings
of older grandchildren, hunting, attending church and telling stories to one
and all. His grandchildren, ages 3
months to 30+, have enjoyed making more memories with “Pappy.”
We want to thank the talented and dedicated staff of UPMC and
especially the world’s greatest surgeon and caregiver, Dr. Bhama. But all of this was made possible by the
tremendous gift of love that gave my dad the gift of life – a heart. The donor’s gift has allowed us to continue
to love our dad, make more memories with Pappy, and to allow him to give his
love to so many others.
For more information on how you can become an organ donor, visit Donate Life America or the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website about organ donation.