By: Pat Sullivan (Co-Founder)
February 14, 2017
It’s been just over 4 years ago now that I received my miracle of a new heart.
I want to set the stage before I go any further… I had complications. I was a pretty debilitated patient after my transplant and should not be considered “the norm”. If you are a transplant candidate or recipient, you shouldn’t expect to encounter some of the issues I experienced. Remember what the doctors and coordinators always tell us when we ask—Will this or that happen to me? or Should I expect this or that?—they say, “Everyone is different. People react differently.”
I have to tell you, I had what the clinicians always tell me was a very “interesting” (i.e. complicated) pre- and post-transplant experience. To this day, within two minutes of seeing a new doctor or nurse, they’ll look at me and say, “Mr. Sullivan, you are an ‘interesting’ case.” (Every time. Like clockwork.) It’s to the point now that I just have to laugh out loud when they say it, because I’ve already anticipated those words (or something like them) coming out of their mouth long before I even walk in.
Many of you heart transplant patients out there will hear similar statements. I’m here to tell you, you have to give it a positive spin. Wear it like a badge of honor. To a doctor, you are a case they don’t see very often and you are “interesting.” We are what they study so hard for. We are what they give up so much time for. We are “the interesting patient.” When they go home to their spouse, they’ll say about us, “I had an interesting patient today.” And that goes for every type of medical professional—a primary care physician to a dentist to a psychologist. They’ll all say the same statement about you: “how interesting.”
Look at it. We are, by the nature of our ordeal, more interesting people. I personally don’t want to be defined by heart failure, but I can’t see the most arduous physical, mental and spiritual ordeal of my entire life as simply, “Oh yeah, by the way, I got a new heart.”
Use your new heart—your hard-earned badge of courage—to your advantage in every way from here on out.
I get a kick out of current news broadcasters and how they minimize our ordeals by reporting that, “So-And-So was hospitalized and received a heart transplant yesterday.” I laugh. They make us sound less interesting. Like the doctors or hospitals have an inventory of hearts sitting at the hospital—all categorized by blood type, weight, etc.—and they pop that guy’s out and pop it in you. It’s so far removed from that minimalist view that it’s almost diametrically opposed. Even the smoothest heart transplant experience is, by nature, a huge ordeal for the patients and their loved ones.
You have to come very close to death to get your badge.
Do not minimize your experience. Flaunt it.
Raise awareness about organ donation and heart failure research. Help the cause.
Use your miracle to help the others coming along behind you.