Ten years of progressive weakness due to cardiomyopathy kept Al sick and tired. Near the end of it, he could barely breathe after a few steps, didn’t have the energy to dry off himself after a shower and could not walk to the end of his driveway to get the newspaper. He was taking multiple medications to keep his heart working, but he was not able to do much of anything at all.
On July 7, 2011, he was admitted to UNC Hospital as an official candidate for a heart transplant. Just 17 days later on July 24, he received a new heart from a young Hispanic man from Orlando, Florida. He received word at 5:30 PM that a heart was a match and was in surgery by 4:00 am the next day.”I had often visualized what it would be like for them to take out my old heart and put in another one. In all honesty it terrified me. But when the time came, my faith in God and the prayers of my family, friends and people I did not even know filled me with a peace that calmed my fears.”
Al has never forgotten that a mother and father lost a son so that he could live.
In gratitude for the gift of life, Al has been determined to take better care of his new heart than he did his old one. When he walked out the hospital just eight days later on August 1, he didn’t know it, but he’d walk and soon run nearly every day afterwards. And, while the doctors told him he could go off the low salt diet and “eat again” post-transplant, Al told his wife he had a responsibility to take care of his new heart.
Today, Al is about 90 pounds lighter than he was in 2011. He walks or runs 5 miles a day, averaging 35 miles a week! He eats right and takes such good care of himself and his new heart that another was so generous to give, that he no longer has diabetes!
Al considers his transplant to be the spark for a life-changing transformation. He says before he got sick, he sometimes wondered does prayer really work, but during the time leading up to his transplant, he could feel the love and support of those who prayed for him. He’s even written a chapter of a new book, Transform, about people who have experienced events that have transformed their lives (it will be published in the fall of 2014).
When asked why someone should consider registering as a donor, Al quickly replied, “We are all our brother’s keeper. It’s the greatest act of love to give the gift of life. There’s no greater proof than that right there.”