The Phillips’ Story In 1992, Don and Cindy never imagined life could be better. Everything was going well; they were healthy, young, active and in-love. But by 1998, Don began coughing and feeling sick. One of his daily regimes was jogging to the car every time he would leave his building at work. Soon his legs became rubbery and he was too weak to make the jog. His doctor didn’t think it was too serious, but decided to take an x-ray. Results were in 20 minutes later when they discovered his heart – attacked by a virus – had become dangerously enlarged. His official diagnosis was dilated cardiomyopathy.
Don was able to survive on meds for about eight years, knowing that someday he would need a transplant. Through all the pain and fear, Don and Cindy did not want to even think about organ donation. But life was not as they had known it before. And after many years, the pharmaceutical alternative no longer worked.
On July 9th, 2006, after 17 days on the waitlist, Don and Cindy received a phone call from GSDS Clinical Manager Tim Kern that a heart was available for Don. One of Cindy’s most precious memories is recalling Don being wheeled into the surgery for his gift of life. Don had a difficult time following his surgery, but Tim came in to see him in the hospital and assured him in no uncertain terms, “In one year, you will be feeling great.” Tim was right.
Since 2006, armed with determination and patience, Don, with Cindy as partner and coach, has again become very active. Don feels close to 100% after having lost six years of real living. Cindy shares that, “After Don received a new heart, both of us got a new chance at life. And one of our most memorable experiences has been meeting the donor’s mother, Kathy, along with the donor’s grandmother and sister.”
Kathy, whose son Ryan, was only 21 when he passed away, knew Ryan had wanted to be a donor. Cindy shares that, “Meeting Ryan’s family gave us an opportunity to know all about Ryan and his life. It felt so good. Kathy listened to Ryan’s heart, leaning close against Don’s chest. Don always assures Kathy that he is taking care of Ryan’s heart. We know there is so much for us in the future and we know Don’s life gives Ryan’s family comfort. They are such nice people.”
Don and Cindy say, “It’s been a wonderful opportunity for us to give out information at events with our Donate Life table, to share our story, sign people up on the registry, and to know we are helping others to possibly have a second chance at life the way that we have.”