“Daddy, they called! They have a heart!!”
(Read Part 1 here)
A new heart! Renewed hope!! A chance for Shelby to live a full life!! It’s exactly what we hoped and prayed for!
But wait! Wait…
For one to live, someone doesn’t.
Somewhere, a family’s tears flow. Someplace, loved ones grieve. Somebody is hurting, mourning a tragic loss.
Their hope, it’s gone.
Yet, in the deepest of deep grief, they share. They share life through their loss.
To someone else, some unknown person to them … to Shelby … they pass along a heart, the very beat of life.
~ Dear Lord, bless the donor’s family. Comfort them. Renew their strength. Help them, every day! Help them take the next step without their loved one. Somehow, some way, please Lord, give them comfort. Give them some form of hope, knowing that the very heart of the person they love is blessing another with live giving blood. Bless them. Please Lord, bless them! ~
With Shelby’s phone call, the clock starts ticking. Emergency contingencies move into motion. Plans become action. Medical personnel prepare. Family and friends quickly migrate to the hospital.
There’s a new heart, but nothing’s guaranteed. It’s never routine to open a person’s body, remove a damaged heart, and replace it with another, still beating heart.
But forget the risks. Forget the gambles. The chance must be taken. It’s simply Russian Roulette with Shelby’s old heart.
Now she has a chance. A good, solid, life giving chance!
Shelby’s bags are packed and ready. During the mad dash to Houston, a patrol car stops the car she’s riding in for speeding. With a little convincing, the officer understands, and lets them speed on with God speed.
A thousand thoughts, a million feelings swooned through Shelby. She knew what she had to do, and like a valiant warrior, stepped up to the challenge staring her in the face.
Friends convene on Houston Hermann Hospital. And when you have seven brothers and sisters, that group alone makes a crowd of support.
One visitor, a pastor Shelby met through a friend, prayed over her after he shared a verse – Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
There was a delay, then another, and another. The five hour surgery finally started before midnight. In the early hours of September 11, 2018, Shelby’s new, healthy, beating heart was placed inside!
Her heart transplant was on 911. How appropriate!
Through the night, about twenty of us stayed, literally camped out in the waiting room. Chairs become resting spots. The floor became a giant bed.
Finally, a nurse came out.
It wasn’t over, but by and large, Shelby had made it through much of the danger.
There’s a lot of pain in recovery, lots. And honestly, I admire how tough Shelby truly is. She didn’t complain, and did everything asked of her in recovery.
She may jump up and down over a paper cut now, but when it comes to something about her heart transplant, she’s as tough as an army boot!!
Her recovery, although not without issues, was incredibly fast!
The doctors, nurses, dietitians, they all love Shelby! Her winsome personality is part of it, but it’s much deeper. She’s a symbol. She’s a refreshing hope to the staff.
Her lead doctor told Shelby he had to remind staff and nurses that despite her rock star status in the hospital, “Shelby’s NOT the ONLY patient we have”.
Privately though, several staff tell her that she is a rarity. She is, in essence, exactly why they do what they do.
Doctors said she’d be in the hospital 6 to 8 weeks. She was out in just over three.
They said she’d have to live in a medical “halfway” house near the hospital 3 to 6 months. After two weeks, they released her to go home.
They told her she couldn’t drive for a year after her transplant. After three months, her doctor released her to drive wherever she wanted.
Freedom! Pure, renewed, freedom!
Rejection versus infection is a major issue. It’s strange really. The very organ that keeps the body alive is attacked by the body as a ‘foreign’ object. The immune system has to remain suppressed to help control the body’s rejection mechanisms, including anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life.
But a suppressed immune system also makes you more susceptible to infection. A virus or common cold, much like the one that initially affected Shelby’s heart, could be fatal, so she must always exercise great caution.
Heart biopsies, blood tests, medications, supplements, they’re all a normal part of life now. Other than that, Shelby’s healthy, strong, and full of new life, one heartbeat at a time!
In the Spring of 2019, Shelby returned to full time college through on line courses. She took a full load this past summer.
In addition to full-time college this semester, she works in an internship at a local hotel and convention center! She graduates college in a couple of months, just one semester later than “normal” graduation time!
People who don’t know her and hear her talk about a heart transplant may look at her like she’s a con artist in a senior citizen’s home selling a huge, made-up story.
She just doesn’t look like, or fit, the “stereotype” of a heart transplant recipient. Yet, she is.
Now Shelby is back to herself! She’s a talking, walking, talking, and talking some more, miracle! 🙂
How do I spell miracle? S.H.E.L.B.Y.
As far as the donor, we may never know. There are stringent protocols in place for contact between donor families and recipients.
Shelby would welcome contact. She’s reached out to the donor’s family. It’s in their court now. They may never seek or want contact.
Either way, it’s OK. They will always be thought of and prayed for!
In the meantime, Shelby’s doing her best to live life fully and take care of the life-giving heart that has served two people, and even two families, so well.
Hope renewed is just the sweetest!
May your beat continue for decades to come!