Athlete Profile

Name: Jim Gleason

Age: 53

Transplant: Heart, 1994

Team: Team Philadelphia

Hometown: Collegeville

Event(s): Tennis (doubles), Swimming (50m Freestyle and 4 x 50 freestyle relay), and Bowling (individual)

As a heart transplant recipient almost two years ago, my view of life is now so different. The beautiful gift that each day respresents is now understood in a new way. Priorities in life are viewed in new light - big important things are not, and the seemingly little things are true treasures today. I cried as I met my first grand-daughter, Carol Marie, born recently in this extended life - an opportunity almost missed. How can one explain what it feels like to be the benefactor of a new young heart from an unknown donor who lost their life and thus I am alive today.

I look forward to growing old with my loving wife and family after having to face the stark reality that that was not a given as I lay dying in the hospital bed. My first 51 years of life have been good ones. I have faced and accepted the inevitable death we all must someday meet. From personal experience, let me assure you, it is not a scary event. And so today I live life one day at a time, without fear, filled with love of God, of family, of so many who made this day possible for me.

I participate in the Transplant Games to add testimony to the success and worldwide awareness of the organ donation process. As more than a thousand recipients gather in SLC and add their individual light to this Olympic torch, hopefully others will become aware of the gift they can pass on both in life and death to others like myself. I can never forget the many who follow in our footsteps, facing their own transplant challenges. To them I offer my example of "being fully alive" through this miracle of transplantation.

This then, is my message to the world: "Live today like there is no guarantee of a tomorrow, for there isn't. And when that tomorrow doesn't come, pass on that torch of life through organ donation."

Jim Gleason is the author of "A Gift from the Heart" (free copies available at the Athlete's Village during the Games; the text is also available on TransWeb at "Experiences" (under "Focus on Transplant Patients").
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Last modified: 11 May 2000