jacksonville, florida – Michele Callahan wasn’t sure she was alive to see her granddaughter.
Callahan was on a conference call at work when he suddenly felt an extreme pain in his chest. She was rushed to the hospital and it turned out she was having a heart attack. She said she was 54 and was in perfect health.
Doctors couldn’t find a clear explanation for her artery blockage or heart attack.
“Two weeks later I had another heart attack while cooking dinner,” she explained.
This time she took more tests, again without real answers.
“None of them could really come up with a sensible reason for the heart attack,” she said.
She and her husband decided to move to Jacksonville.
“I had a really good week, sometimes a really good month, and then I had a week where I was in bed 20 hours a day,” she said.
She said she was afraid to leave the house, to be alone, and worried that she would have another heart attack and no one would help her or perform CPR.
Her doctor decided she needed a heart transplant. She was put on a waiting list for organ donors and was told that her small body and large chest cavity meant that her donor had to be a small person, possibly an adolescent.
“It gave me a lot of anxiety because I’m a mother myself and I think about my daughter and what that family goes through,” she explained. “When I got the call, I knew another mother was going through something terrible.”
She was on the waiting list for about nine months, but started feeling better.
But then she fell ill and took longer each time to recover.
“A day I’ll never forget. A phone call I’ll never forget,” Callahan said.
When she woke up from the surgery, she said it felt great.
“The first thing I noticed was how easy I was breathing and how relieved I was,” she said.
She explained that she could hear her heart beat and feel it all over her body, realizing how weak her heart was before the transplant.
She can now travel with her husband to make up for lost years due to her fear of leaving home. She spends as much time as possible volunteering and discussing the importance of organ donation with her teens.
She doesn’t know much about her donor, but writes to the young woman’s family every six months.
Once a day, she places her hand on her heart and speaks to her donor, thanking him for the gift of life. That’s why I named her heart Sammy of Miami.
More than 5,000 people are waiting for organ donation in Florida. Over 20 people die every day waiting for one of hers.
Click here for more information about organ donation www.donatelifeflorida.org.
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