I nearly lost Jim in 2001. In August of 2000, his heart had deteriorated to the point where, on his visit to the hospital in Houston, the doctors kept him. They told him, "You're either going home with a new heart, or in a pine box."
Jim had been born with a birth defect - no valves in his heart. By the time he was 18, he had beaten the odds dramatically, since doctors had predicted he would die before he was 6. He got his first heart valve replacement then. Got his second one the same week our first son was born. (We were in separate hospitals 200 miles apart at the time.)
In 1989, he got his third valve replacement, and the news that he might have to have a transplant. He was placed on The List in 1998.
Unlike many transplant patients, the heart is the one organ where additional restrictions apply. For instance, the heart has to be within 10% of the person's body weight. Meaning...a 200 lb. person needs to get a heart from a person who's anywhere from 180-220 lbs. Otherwise, the heart can't handle the body mass and blood volume.
Jim spent Aug. 2000 to March 2001 waiting for a heart from an Intensive Care bed at St. Luke's Hospital. In March, I got the call at 4 a.m. (a Sunday morning) that a heart the right size and blood type was going to Jim. The drive from Victoria to Houston felt like forever. Fortunately, traffic was light.
Jim was the last person to receive his transplant. Five other people went before him - corneas, lungs, skin, kidney, liver, and finally heart. I'll never forget my first sight of him after surgery. He had pink toes! After years of suffering with him with his cold feet, he finally had circulation there.
I came too close to losing him. We prayed hard and often, fought depression and overwhelming stress. And we promised to always love each other.
January, 2008, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniverary. Jim has passed his 5 year "watch" period - like cancer victims, transplantees who go 5 years without any major rejections are considered "cleared". Yes, he'll have to take a ton of medication and anti-rejection serum for the rest of his life. But we have a future together.
And because of him, I'm able to write romance stories with Happily Ever Afters.