HEART OF HOPE (2) – My Daughter’s Transplant Story

“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. RabBits 29

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!

Shelby, 3 months after her heart transplant wearing a t-shirt her sister made her

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!

Shelby doesn’t go around talking about her heart transplant, but she doesn’t shy away from it either.

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!

The path is open, sweet daughter! March on!!



60 thoughts on “HEART OF HOPE (2) – My Daughter’s Transplant Story”

  1. Wow. Colour me gum smacked. What a beautiful daughter you have Jeff and what a gift she undoubtedly is. One of my daughters had a huge problem with alcohol and it almost killed her. I stood at her side when there were tubes in her mouth and the Doctors said that her organs where shutting down. But Jesus saved her (she’s a Christian now) and gave her back to us and I marvel at His grace everyday, especially when I see her and even more so when she gives me friendly digs. So I know what it’s like to think you may lose someone and then get them back. I am so happy for all of you. I myself was also adopted so that adds an extra element to it. Thank you so much for sharing this (although your two part delivery was a killer). God’s continued grace, peace and blessings on you and yours. – Bruce

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Well, Bruce, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard the phrase, ‘Colour me gum smacked!!’ But I totally get the meaning! There is something about our children, whether young or fully grown, that pulls our hearts in more when they are sick!! Also love that you are adopted! Thanks so much for your kind thoughts, my friend! Peace to you!!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I relive pieces of the past with one of our daughters. Life flight one time, other 911 calls and ambulance rides. ICU stays…It’s hard. So glad your daughter is doing great. In all nothing happens without passing through the Fathers hands…Thanks for sharing Jeff

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ouch! Then you know what this is like, Gary! As an earthly father, it’s hard to sit back and watch knowing you can do nothing to “fix” it and make it all better! And you are right! Like how you said it…..”Nothing happens without passing through the Father’s hands”!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, what a great and beautiful story. An ending I was hoping for. She’s a beautiful young lady, Jeff. You’re a very lucky father my friend and thanks to the donor family she’s a lucky lady too. Awesome news and an awesome post!! Take care…the both of you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 🙂 Aww…I really appreciate that!!

      And I haven’t even thought about what they do with the diseased heart. I suspect it’s incinerated, but honestly don’t know. And yes, usually the donor family would have a funeral for their loved one.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a truly beautiful girl – you are so lucky to have such a wonderful daughter. This gives me so much happiness because I have been on the other side of donor organs. My mum always carried an organ donor card but when she was dying of a ruptured bowel, she developed septicemia. That meant that most of her organs were destroyed but luckily we could donate her corneas. I like to think that her beautiful eyes live on in the recipient.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow, Kerry!! That is beautiful!! I know it sounds crazy, and may be way to personal, but do you ever wonder if when you look in a stranger’s eyes that you may be looking into your mom’s eyes??

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t, Jeff, because this happened in Scotland and we have moved two continents since. They told me it was a gentleman in his 60’s and I wrote a letter to him, via the donor services, but did not receive a reply. I waxed lyrically about my mum the model and I often wonder if I said too much. Who knows?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That makes sense, Kerry. It seems if I were in Scotland though, virtually every man about that age I saw, I’d wonder….

          I understand, from the opposite side. Shelby has written notes to the donor family, but they may choose not to respond. Either way, bless them!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I think the experience can be so overwhelming, on either side, that we shouldn’t be upset not to receive or reply to a note. Not everyone is able to articulate how they feel. Kindness and generosity is a gift in itself.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. After all of the well deserved comments, I think I scrolled down for a complete minute before I found the comment box (kudos for your excellent true life writing). What a lovely true life story to post Jeff. I so wish the best for Shelby and family because you all deserve it! What a wonderful story. Thank you again.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What a beautiful story Jeff, and what an incredible gift from her donor’s family. Shelby is a lovely young lady, and it’s wonderful to hear that she’s able to live such a fulfilling life with her new heart. Thanks so much for sharing this fabulous story of hope. Blessings to you and your family!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Terri! And yes, the donor family gave an incredible gift, in many, many ways! I can only imagine how they must feel. As a result though, Shelby has a new lease on life, literally! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow… This was so inspiring.. Thanku for sharing your life story… Shelby’s victory.. Proud of her. It was her positive attitude that ruled the show. That takes a whole lot of efforts to be positive and keep trying and making your mind understand that inspite of the fact that yourind knows what you are going through. She won the struggle against her mind first and rest is history. I am happy for her and wish her good health. Blessings for donor and his/her family too.
    Coincidentally I am reading your story after watching a real life based movie (Hindi) on life and struggles of Ayesha Chaudhary (from India) who was suffering from SCID disease but her parent’s efforts helped her live 18 years of her life. That truly was heart touching but heart wrenching. The way she faced her troubles and still marked her name in history is something we as normal people cannot achieve as we I don’t know why, are complacent with our lives and take things for granted.
    So ya both the life stories, come back – to- back to me. God wants me to get inspired!!
    Your daughter’s smile is beautiful. God bless her.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank yo so much for the very kind, encouraging words, Rupali! It was, in many ways, surreal, and my daughter Shelby is one tough cookie! It’s the kind of thing you look back on wonder. I’ll for sure have to look up the movie Hindi and watch it. Thanks again so much for your kindness!!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. What a blessing in so many ways. Thank you for sharing such a difficult emotional story. Obviously God isn’t through with Shelby! God Bless your family, Jeff, and a special blessing to the donor’s family. God is Good!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Jeff, this is an incredible story! Wow! I’m praising God from right here, with all my heart, for how He worked this miracle in your daughter’s life. Thank you, Lord Jesus! I appreciate how tenderly and compassionately you remember the family whose loved one donated their heart. As you say, your renewed hope was their lost hope. Reminds me of Jesus laying down His life for ours in a way. May you enjoy every precious moment with your family and your beautiful daughter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the kind sentiments, Melissa! It’s a blessing, a unique blessing in so many ways, one impossible to mankind (man alone) for most of the time since God set His creation in motion. It’s a blessing to live in this day in age when God has granted us favor in the time and age we live. Thank you, again, for the kind words Melissa!

      Liked by 1 person

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