Heart transplant recipient shares his story of survival

Originally Posted, October 30, 2015 Baptist News

John Daniel, an executive at First Horizon (First Tennessee’s parent company) and the 350th patient to receive a heart transplant at Baptist, wrote a letter about his experience that was published in the Sunday, Oct. 25 edition of the Commercial Appeal. His letter is reprinted below.

On September 15, 2015, I received a life-changing phone call from the heart transplant team at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis. A heart was available from a local organ donor. The next day, I had heart transplant surgery. Today I am home celebrating life, and already on the road to recovery. I have high hopes for a long and healthy life.

More than 20 years ago, my heart was damaged by a viral infection, and I was told I’d need a heart transplant one day. In September 2014, my heart gave out. I couldn’t walk without assistance. The next month, surgeons at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis implanted a left ventricular assist device—a machine that pumped for my weakened heart. For me, it acted as a bridge to life while I waited for a new heart.

We in the Memphis area are blessed with outstanding health care assets. I benefitted from the talents of surgeons and doctors at Baptist Memphis, and during my journey I’ve met many people whose lives have been impacted by the technology and physicians available locally. If you’re sick, there’s no better place to be than Memphis. Brilliant surgeons like Dr. H. Ed Garrett, Jr. and Dr. Todd Edwards at Baptist Memphis performed my operations, but I was impacted by a whole host of health care professionals. I can’t speak highly enough about the great care and concern offered by the transplant team during my 10-day stay following my heart transplant.

Baptist physicians completed the area’s first open-heart surgery in 1960 and the first heart transplant in 1985. Dr. Garrett, Jr., the transplant program’s director, performed the area’s first heart-lung and double lung transplant in 1991.

For the rest of my life, I’ll take immunosuppression drugs and will likely experience the same difficulties as those transplant recipients before me. I will go to the doctor, at minimum, every three months, and I have to treat every cold or sneeze with great care.

According to the Baptist Memphis transplant team, transplant recipients are more susceptible to infections because they have lowered or suppressed immune systems. Infections commonly seen include viruses, fungal and bacterial infections. The immunosuppression drugs make transplant recipients more vulnerable to illness, so we ask everyone to be sensitive to that; stay away if you’re sick and always wash your hands when around us.

But what a precious gift of life I’ve been given. I’m honored to have another chance at life with my wife, Lesley, and our three sons. I’m looking forward to the wedding of my youngest son next year. I have a real chance to see grandchildren and living out my normal lifespan.

However, not everyone is so lucky. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, one person is added to the organ waiting list every 10 minutes. An average of 21 people die every day waiting on an organ in the United States. In 2013, more than 120,000 people were on the waiting list, but only 14,000 people are registered donors. One donor can save up to eight people’s lives through organ donation and help others through tissue donation. Anyone, regardless of age or medical history, can sign up to be a donor.

The need is great. Signing up to be an organ donor is easy. You can visit http://www.donatelifetn.org/ to register.

John Daniel

Executive at First Horizon National Corporation

Resident of Harbor Town

Heart transplant #350 at Baptist Memphis

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