Second Chance Blog


The “Right Turn” That Saved My Life

This is a blog post submitted to Gift of Life by heart recipient, Wanda Griffith.

I am somebody, but part of me is somebody else and for that somebody, I am eternally grateful… Let’s think about that for a moment, a complete stranger, in the worst moments, made a decision to save somebody and that somebody is typing this today to tell her story.

Organ donation has saved my life and has directly affected the lives of those around me. Today, I want to tell you about my transplant journey as a heart recipient.

More than 20 years ago on October 24th I came to a literal crossroads that would determine my destiny.

In the weeks leading up to the night of October 23rd I was tired, light headed and having severe dizzy spells.  As any other working mother of a toddler I was quick to blame the fatigue on my everyday routine.  I was too worried about what my then 18 month old daughter needed and what I needed to do to provide for her. I was too worried about the needs of a professional life and the expectations of my job and clearly not listening to my body and focusing on what I needed.

The night of Oct 23rd, 1995, I didn’t sleep. I was having trouble lying flat and couldn’t breathe. As if I hadn’t slept all night I was still up at the crack of dawn getting my daughter ready for daycare and myself ready for a day at the office. After dropping my daughter off, I came to my literal crossroads. Knowing I wasn’t feeling well, while sitting at a traffic light, my thoughts were that if I turned right it would take me to the hospital and turning left to the office I turned right that day and drove myself to the emergency room.

As they examined me and brought in the specialists, I was found to be in Congestive Heart Failure, had I turned left…. I wouldn’t be here to tell my story. Turning right began my journey to transplant, 3 weeks before my 30th birthday.

For the next 15 years I lived with many limitations in my diet and everyday living. I took many medications to keep my heart stable. I couldn’t walk more than 100 feet without rest. I was tired beyond any tired I could have imagined. Though limited, I never let my limitations be evident to those around me. I pushed with positivity. I had to for my daughter. I wanted to see her grow up.

As my daughter grew, I was able to share in all of her milestones. I never missed a concert or game she participated in. I worked full time and built a good life for us. Behind the smile I was tired, but pushed for her sake.

I knew that transplant was my cure from the day I was diagnosed with heart disease. I knew I wasn’t sick enough to be on the list but knew it the day was coming all too fast as well. On October 24th, 2010, 15 years to the day of my right turn, I collapsed, which lead to the discussion of transplant. It was time.

On my 45th birthday I started my transplant journey. My Social Worker sang “Happy Birthday” to me before she began her routine of the transplant evaluation process. I was listed in late November and transplanted in December just 20 days later. I was fortunate enough to wait at home surrounded by family. My mother and father had moved in to help. I wanted my daughter to enjoy her senior year of high school and not worry about the care I may need while waiting.  I had in-home nursing visits and kept that smile for my daughter’s sake.

The call came at 5:30 a.m. We rushed around like a new mom, waking everyone. The news of a match was met with every emotion that morning. When we arrived at the hospital it was like a whirlwind of activity. I was: anxious but ready, scared but hopeful, sorrowful but grateful, all at the same time.

I understood what needed to happen for this day to arrive but still felt a sense of mourning, guilt and peace all at the same time. It is still hard to explain. I was prepped and ready. I went to sleep knowing I would see my daughter graduate from high school, I would see my parents grow old, and I could continue the hope of one day meeting my son.

Ten days later I was discharged from the hospital, with a grateful heart and lots and lots of medication!  I visit my heart team (what I like to call “OZ”) every 6 months for a checkup. I undergo extensive testing yearly to ensure the rest of me is keeping up with the new heart.

All in all, I am healthy. I take my meds every 12 hours. I try to eat right and exercise regularly.  In the time since transplant I have been living life. I have celebrated my daughter graduating from high school. I have seen her off to college. I have married my high school sweetheart, who supports me in everything I do. I gained wonderful step son. I am back to work full time in a job that I love. I have met and have a relationship with my son (a son that I gave up for adoption 29 years ago). I have met and have a relationship with my 3 beautiful grandchildren whom I never knew existed. I have celebrated my nephews graduating high school. I have celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. I have traveled with my family. I have celebrated the birth of a new nephew. I have been a part of my daughter getting engaged to the man of her dreams. I get to plan a wedding with her I get to love more grandbabies. I get to grow old with my family.

I am grateful beyond words for the selfless gift that allows me to continue my life journey. A decision was made in the moments of despair that changed mine and my family’s lives forever. I like to think my donor and donor family also made a right hand turn when at the crossroads of life, by making the decision to be an organ donor thus syncing us forever.

I pray for my donor family daily and live life as if they are watching. I believe I am here to serve a purpose and for now that purpose is to share my story and hopefully convince others to take the same “right” turn and check the box to be an organ donor.

2 Responses to “The “Right Turn” That Saved My Life”

  1. Sharon Albright says:

    I remember getting that email that morning.. you are an inspiration and I we still continue to pray for you that one day you get to meet your donor’s family. I think it would do their hearts good and they would be proud of how you have honored their loved one’s priceless gift. ❤️

  2. Wanda Griffith says:

    Thanks Sharon, One day. If not this lifetime, surely the next 🙂

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