A Transplant Patient's Experiences with a Potpourri of Things that Happened

by Jim Gleason, recovering Heart Transplant Patient (transplanted 10/19/94)

This is one in a series of short articles sharing this heart transplant patient's experiences in some area of common concern. Included in the series are similar articles covering Nutrition, Weight Change, Biopsy, Rejection, Medication, Exercise, Motivation & Boredom, Transplant Surgery, and Fear & Facing Death, Support of Family & Friends, Potpouri and this collection of supporter's sharings. These are not meant to replace any professional medical advice, but rather are one layman's interpretations of actual experiences he had while waiting for, undergoing, and finally, recovering from, a heart transplant at the University of PA Medical Center. While each person will have their own unique experiences, many have found this simple sharing to be of value in reducing their own concerns seeing that such feelings and experiences are part of the normal recovery process seeing that there is light at the end of what may now appear to be a very dark tunnel through the eyes of another who has passed this way ahead of them and, most importantly, the light at the end of that tunnel is not a train engine coming directly at them, it is the light of another sunny day, another gift of a day of life. May you find joy in that daily gift of life as I have through the miracle of this medical science known as transplantation.



As I recently approached the 1st Anniversary of my heart transplant and was authoring another "final" chapter of thoughts on that event for this book (A GIFT FROM THE HEART), I recalled our transplant director's request of last spring. He suggested that they were finding that a key ingredient in the success of the transplant patient was related to the support system of family and friends gathered around that patient. Since my own support network had been so strong, he wondered would I consider adding to my book a piece sharing their own experiences in dealing with a loved one undergoing a heart transplant? More recently my wife, Jay, brought that back to mind when she commented on the depth of impact many underwent in being a part of this past year with us.

I accepted that challenge and took up the action of extending invitations to several family and friends I felt had been close and deeply affected. I asked each if they would share their deepest selves for the sake of others who would someday find themselves undergoing the same challenge - either as a patient (and thus they would better understand what family and friends are undergoing and can better help them through it, especially when they realize the role the patient can play in setting the tone of the encounter for everyone involved), or supporter (seeing what others in their position felt and how they handled experience might relieve guilt and provide ways of dealing with the complex issues and feelings they would encounter). To those invitations I also added yet another dimension. My mother, Grace, and nephew, Jake, whom you have met in reading the rest of this book, both passed away early this spring. They were an integral part of that support team and had been very deeply affected and involved in my successful recovery. During her stay at our home after my transplant, Mom shared some of her innermost thoughts and feelings. More recently, I received a very precious gift in the form of a tape that Jake had made in response to my own taped letters of encouragement sent to him last September/October - a time when we both were in our respective hospitals fighting for life. He was just 26 and battling leukemia. His tape was made then but just relayed to me recently. On that tape he too shared some insights which will be made part of the following pages.

I invite you to sit back and live the experience of this particular heart transplant from the perspectives of many family and friends who open their own hearts in support of you who follow them down this path of fear, prayer, love, support, anger, joy, and tears (oh, so many tears...) . . .

"Amazing Grace": My Mother, the Nurse...

When it came time to see the heart specialists at HUP, mom came down from her home in New Jersey to be right there with us. At the age of 79, she just picked up and moved down here and, with a background of 50 years as a registered nurse, "did private duty" by sitting in my hospital room day after day while we waited for a heart to become available.. This provided a rare opportunity for mother and son to get to know each other even better, and how many get that chance so late in our lives? Upon discharge just 10 days after surgery, mom moved into our PA home for the month I needed transport and close care. Immediate family had to return to their job responsibilities and certainly didn't feel comfortable leaving dad at home alone. Mom and I would do our daily exercise walks together. She would oversee my eating - and boy, did we have fights over that! Of course, she was right, but that didn't make it any easier for me. At the hospital, she had made instant friends with everyone - patients, professionals and support staffs.

At one point mom was asked how she was handling my heart transplant challenge. She pointed out that she had been through it all before, back in 1970 when my father fell ill with congestive heart failure, later being hospitalized for that condition. As she said: then "we didn't have any alternatives." Dad died in that hospital. Twenty-five years later, Mom saw my transplant as the true miracle that it was - and we benefited from her wisdom in this regard.

Of the many things that changed in my new life, this relationship with my mother was one that improved even further with age and this closeness. By Thanksgiving, she returned to help Jake with his own ongoing leukemia battle. As you read earlier, later in the spring of 1995, mom died suddenly of a blood clot in her lungs. A month later, Jake lost his battle and also died. Today, both Jake and mom are closer than ever to all of us, especially myself. Every day I look up to them for company and support, and as always before, they are there for us all.

- Grace Gleason, my mother, nurse and friend (born 1918 - died 1995)

An Impossible Offer...

In the monograph on Support, I detailed the surprise visit Jake (my 26-year old nephew, fighting his own loosing battle with leukemia) paid to my hospital room while awaiting the availability of a donor heart and all that visit meant to me. Jake joined mom just before Easter this year after a valiant fight that the doctors gave up on several times. Jake and his loving wife, Maria, and the whole family, refused that option until God finally decided for them. What a model he gave to all of us in handling pain and the daily fight for life at all levels.

I clearly remember the phone call with Jake, when, in a voice that could barely be heard (he was so weak) he related his conversation with doctors up there in NJ in which he explored the possibilities of donating his heart to me in the event of his death. That possibility of death was, according to those doctors, only days away back last October, but they explained that with the leukemia, such donation would not be possible. What greater gift can anyone offer? After finishing our call I just sat there and shook with tears of emotion. Months later I still fill up recalling that same conversation and Jake's loving offer of life - his own for "uncle Jim!" Wow!! And this, along with his example of how to both live and die with dignity and bravery, was just one of the many gifts that Jake freely gave everyone in the family, time and time again. Would that we could all live his loving example and accept each day for the gift it is and live it to its fullest, thanking God as we do so. "Jake, you are the greatest!"

- William (Jake) Kolacy, Jr., Jim's nephew (born 1969 - died 1995)

Reflections of a Co-Worker

(Note: Marcy is a "Cookie Monster" to both myself and everyone around her, and was a special blessing who came into my life just in time to share her very special support just when I needed it most...)

I have not known Jim Gleason very long. Just a little over a year. I met him in a job interview! He was meeting with me for a possible position that he might have available for me at Unisys. I remember having a unique interview with Jim. One that left you feeling excited about the possibility of working with someone who was so affirming and viewed work as recreation (read 're - Creation').

I got the job, and off to Unisys I came. Shortly afterwards, Jim was leaving to await a heart transplant. I remember Jim's last day in work. He stopped in to say good-bye, personally, to each person. This was Jim's style - each person was important. I was concerned for Jim. And another thought came to mind. Jim was a 'heart' kind of guy. He put himself into everything he did, whole-heartedly. More than most folks. In a sense, one who uses his heart so much is bound to wear it out faster than others. In one way, there was a lot of truth to this.

I recall the day that Jim received his new heart. He made an early AM phone call to work and left a message requesting it be passed to all his co-workers. The message was 'this might be the day he received his new heart. He was hopeful, but also realistic. I can remember standing in someone's office as the message was played feeling hope and anticipation for Jim. And again, being impressed with Jim's attitude, even as he shared the news with his friends. Whatever heart energy was left, Jim was using all of it, and getting all of us involved.

Not much was said that day, but Jim was with us - that day, that evening, the next morning. First thing folks asked the next day, "Any news on Jim?".And then the word came down, all went fine, and later that day we heard that Jim was sitting up in a chair. That very afternoon! Well, needless to say, Jim was the talk of our campus by the end of the day. I remember as I was leaving work that day, and walking to my car I was chatting about Jim to someone and saying "amazing how they get you up so fast after major surgery". The response I got back was "No, it's Jim that's amazing". And the man was right. Jim's spirit was such that there were no barriers, life was meant to be seized and enjoyed. And of course, you sit right up and start using that new heart. Right away!

We were kept in touch with Jim's progress in the days/weeks/months following his transplant by letters from Jim. And how we enjoyed them. I recall one particular day when communication from Jim appeared in all of our mailboxes. It was a typical communication from Jim: informative, hilarious and inspirational. In the quiet of a lunch hour, Jim had his impact. You heard "wow...amazing..then laughter". A new heart reached out and touched all of us - from a hospital bed to a busy workplace. We are so much more that what meets the eye. Jim was always teaching us that and he continued to do so from the hospital.

In the following months, there were shared lunches at Jim's home until he could fully return to work. A gathering of friends who laughed and shared, and walked away touched at the miracle of life. For Jim, each breath was so close, so glorious, and us old hearts were reminded again of this miracle called life.

I can remember clearly the day that Jim returned to work. We were busy decorating his office to let him know how happy we were to welcome back our dear friend. The celebration was tempered by a phone call that another worker (who had been hospitalized with double pneumonia) had died from congestive heart failure. How fragile life is, and how precious.

So now, Jim graces our halls and our lives once again, with his beaming presence. (we had trouble keeping up with Jim before, now he has a younger heart, no contest!). A constant reminder to all of us, of so many things:

The Gift of life...

The Blessing of work...

Attitude is important...

And I might add one other lesson: Use your heart. Don't be afraid to let it wear out, instead of rust out. You won't require a transplant, and you'll be a lot happier!

Jim went through the transplant, but it was an opportunity for all of his friends to be transplanted , as well, to a new ground, with new vision and a new heart. Jim never travels alone, thank God!Grateful to have Jim as a co-worker, and especially, as a friend! Marcy Craskey.

Reflections of a close personal friend and business associate of 4 years

(Note: I came to work for Jim several years before this heart problem arose. We both quickly recognized in each other kindred spirits, and grew into one of those unique very strong and special friendships that usually take a lifetime to develop. One is very blessed if he ever finds such a friend in a whole lifetime. This too was one of God's gifts of support provided at a time of my life when it was most needed - a very, very special gift.)

I remember Oct. 19th, though not as vivid I'm sure as Jim always will.. When I arrived in the office shortly before 7:30 AM, Jim had already left me a voice message, "They think they have a heart for me." I shuddered as I heard the words; I can't imaging the feelings Jim was going through.

As Jim had left the message with several people, the office buzzed all morning as calls to Jim's house and friends were exchanged. At noon I was attending a 25th anniversary luncheon for a coworker and we raised our glasses and toasted "Jim - he should be in surgery by now."

Well later that day we heard from Jim's daughter, Mary, that Jim had come through the surgery and was in recovery. We all prayed in our own way.

In writing that last thought, it reminds me how Jim's recovery continues to impact everyone he comes in contact with, and each time he comes in contact with them. As an example, he and I have had many discussions with varying topics, from work issues, to family to religion. I believe we each leave these conversations a little richer from the experience. No matter what the topic or the reason for the conversation, I take away either a new or revisited perspective on life. As in writing this paper, I am ending up with something 180 degrees from what I started. In the first draft it took me a page and a half to get to the statement above "We all prayed in our own way". Then I recalled the power of prayer. Jim frequently asked us to keep him in our prayers, and we did. I teach CCD on Tuesday nights, and for a couple of weeks preceding Jim's transplant, we would offer our opening prayers for "my friend Jim", as we did the night before his operation. The week after the transplant we offered our prayers in thanksgiving.

The point is, in out busy lives we forget where we've come from and been through until we have reason to put our thoughts into words, either spoken or written. The power of prayer is an awful lot of what Jim is all about, and why we who are fortunate enough to have him as a friend, can be thankful that we still have him as a friend. And in writing these words while thinking of Jim, it reminds me where all of us get our strength. And with that thought we can all smile and look forward to tomorrow, as Jim does.

From my youngest sister, Maggie

Where to begin....?

The first time the words "Heart Transplant" were mentioned was approximately two years before it actually happened. Jim was diagnosed. We were told a virus attacked his heart muscle. The doctors felt it could be treated with medicine and over a period of time, the heart muscle would repair itself. In the same breath Heart Transplant was mentioned, but as a last resort. We, as family members, heard just "Heart Transplant" and didn't hear the alternatives. Jim heard the alternatives and didn't want to hear the words Heart Transplant. Over a period of time the prescribed medicines seem to have been working but eventually his situation steadily became worse. The doctors, once again, said those dreaded words "Heart Transplant". We felt Jim wasn't admitting to how serious the situation really was. He thought we just heard the worse and were jumping the gun. The medications were changed with the hope that this new regimen would do the job.

I think from the very beginning I was preparing for the worse. Those dreaded words, heart transplant, put an understandable fear in me. All I could think of was how it was in the past, with the survival rate not being very high. I never knew anyone who had been through this type of operation so I was ignorant of how technology has progressed and how common this has become.

Finally the day came when the medicines could no longer do anything more. Jim faced up to the fact the words Heart Transplant were going to become a reality IF A DONOR COULD BE FOUND! That's when my mom called me at work to tell me that my brother Jim was going into the hospital to wait for a donor - it was official now - it was for real - no more denying it - I cried right there at my desk. My co-workers thought someone died. My mom was upset that I reacted like that and was mad at herself for calling me at work. She felt she should have waited till I was home. I assured her I was OK and that I wanted to know right away. I can't explain why I was so upset - I felt like someone had died - to me it was like a death sentence for Jim. No one survived a heart transplant and if they did, they didn't live long afterwards. What quality of life would he have? Remember, I still knew nothing of the advances medical technology had made in this type of operation.

Jim was very upbeat about everything and had a positive outlook towards the wait ahead. Brochures were passed around explaining the procedure and percentages of survival rates, etc. I have to admit I was overwhelmed by it all and everything I read became a blur. We visited Jim a few times in the hospital while he was waiting. He is a "People Person" and soon knew the other patients on the floor. That's when it hit home how many people are out there waiting for donors. Jim's doctors gave us reason to believe it may not be a very long wait to find a heart but as time sped by, it became apparent that it wasn't as easy as it seemed to find a match. Jim's hardest accomplishment seemed to me to be staying on the hospital diet. He loved eating and enjoyed trying new and different dishes. He needed to loose quite a bit of weight so he would have a better chance of finding a donor. The days became weeks. The wait was longer than we expected, but in the real world of transplants, it was minimal. Through all this time, I was wrestling with wanting to find a donor and not wanting to find one because of the unknown after the transplant. At least now Jim was doing fairly well but what if the transplant didn't work or there were complications. It was too scary to contemplate. We all had doubts that this would work. I didn't want to face that day. Of course, that day came. It was becoming critical that a donor be found. Jim's heart was deteriorating quickly. I started to resent the other patients who were lucky enough to have found donors and asked why couldn't they find a heart for him.

Many prayers were answered that morning on October 19, 1994, when the call came that a heart was found. I got the call at work and couldn't wait to leave so I could drive to the hospital to be with everyone. But it wasn't definite yet. We wouldn't know until lunch time or soon after. I called my husband, Barry, at work and asked him if we could drive to PA that night to be with Jay. The doctors guessed that Jim should be in surgery around 1:00 if all went well and the heart matched, then be in recovery sometime around 9:30 that night. At the time I no longer thought of the consequences if the surgery didn't work, all I could think of was if the donor heart was in good enough shape for my brother. All of a sudden there was no doubt that he would make it.

Barry and I made the trip to Philadelphia, along with a side trip to pick up my mom, that night. We arrived sometime after 9:00 p.m.. The doorman was alerted ahead and was waiting for our arrival and helped us to find our way to the transplant floor. I can remember my mom's expression when she told the doorman for who and why we were there. It was a look of pride. Her son just underwent a Heart Transplant. In her days of nursing I'm sure they never dreamt of such a thing. The three of us hurried to find Jay and the family. We found out Jim was already up from the surgery and we could go in to see him. According to the transplant team, all went well. Now the fear was creeping up again. I wasn't sure I could go in there. I wanted to very badly, but I was holding back. Only two people were allowed to visit at a time, but the nurses weren't being very strict about it with the family members. Mom went ahead inside the room while I stayed outside looking in the window. All I could do was cry. I couldn't stop. We were all prepared for the tubes and wires, that wasn't what was bothering me. I think I was reliving seeing my father in the hospital with tubes and wire attached. The fear I felt then, I was feeling again. My father didn't recognize me when I went to see him for that last time. I had refused to go back to the hospital to visit him and he died two weeks later. I have never been very good in hospitals since then. Here was my oldest brother in a similar situation. I finally did make my way into the room and Jim looked peaceful. Not knowing any better, we were trying to get him to wake up. His daughters were talking loudly and stroking his hands and feet. By this time the room was full. We were all around the bed talking to him or about the machines he was hooked up to. Finally a nurse came in and requested that some of us leave the room and not to talk to him because they really didn't want Jim to wake up just yet. We went out to the little room down the hall that was reserved for the members of the families of transplant patients. Jay was holding up very well. I sort of expected her to be more upset but she was much calmer than me. It was getting late and we had a long ride home and work the next day, sowe left shortly after.

The next morning I got a call from my mom exclaiming how the nurses had Jim sitting up in a chair! It was beyond comprehension! How could he be sitting upright after what had taken place the night before? We were all amazed at the rate of recovery. Jim was keeping the doctors at their word of approximately ten days till he could be released. Every day Jim was accomplishing something else. Jim became almost like a Born Again Christian. This was a second beginning for him. A new life to be cherished. His beliefs were a part of every conversation he had with anyone who visited. Sometimes it was hard to listen because he was so full of conviction.

Jim was in a hurry to get out of the hospital but we were afraid to have him go home. So many things could go wrong. He was safer in the hospital with all the nurses and doctors nearby. Now was the hard part of coping with a man who can't wait to live his brand new life with a new heart and keeping him in the boundaries set by the doctors. I went to visit Jim at home and found myself being talked into letting him do things I knew were not allowed. There was no way anyone was going to stop him. We went for a short walk down the block and all I could think of was what I would do if he collapsed. I knew I couldn't hold him up if he became faint, which is common with Heart Transplants.

I felt Jim was testing God. He was pushing the limits of all the rules. He gave me the impression that he thought he was indestructible. I was starting to hope for something to happen that would make him realize he was only human and had to be more careful. He felt everyone was trying to hold him down and told us so many times. Jim was becoming someone I no longer knew. The patience that Jim always had was gone. He had a temper and showed it often. I tried to understand how he must feel wanting to do so many things and feeling terrific physically and having people around him saying no all the time. I went home after a visit being glad I didn't have to deal with him on a daily basis. The doctors told us that the steroids and other medicines Jim was taking could be the cause of the changes in him. Whenever this was mentioned though, Jim argued that it was not the case. Days turned into months and Jim was doing great! Nothing could stop him. We were all thrilled that it was turning out so well. He had few complications. He was a textbook case. As his medicines were changed and decreased, Jim started to become his old self. To this day, I still have a hard time believing all that has happened. My brother is walking around with someone else's heart! And if it wasn't for that donor my brother would not be here today. How can you say "THANK YOU" for such a gift?

From a past neighbor, now sadly geographically distant, but "best friend" of 17 years (a research doctor, and close family friend)

(Note: Ken and I became close friends during our child raising years in Albany, NY. We came to share many interests such as gardening, personal computers, community leadership, as well as common family and personal values. Despite the geography between us for the past 10 years, both Ken and his wife, Karen, and their two daughters, were ever there with us as we went through this "heartfelt" experience...but then they have always been there for us, afar but so close.)

How do you describe a void? That is my problem when trying to describe my feelings when Jim called with the news of his impending heart transplant. How is it possible that Jim, my friend, my best friend, is about to leave me? Jim, the robust fellow. Jim, the guy with limitless energy. I had seen him earlier in the year, and could see the energy was diminished - not the spirit - but the measurable energy of the body. But this. How could I manage with Jim gone? I could not see past the event to a positive future. But these feelings could not be shared with Jim! Oh, no. He needed my support, my reasurrance that it would work out. After all, I'm the Doc; I'm the one with all the knowledge and all the answers. It was a relief when Jim asked about Q10. Now I had something I could work with! I scoured the literature and filled his mailbox with reprints on the subject. Now I was involved. Jim was involved too. It was he, I see in retrospect, who carried me. It was his spirit, his positive outlook, his never-accept-defeat attitude, that carried me and, I suspect others. Is that spirit unique to Jim? Certainly yes, in its intensity. But I would say we all have that capacity. It's much easier to bear the problems of others than our own. Why we fail to realize and act on this fact, I don't know. Could I have matched Jim's attitude, spirit, and fight? I don't know. I do know that in lesser situations, I have surprised myself with the capacity to put aside my own fears and concerns in order to shoulder those of another. Still, I hope I never have to face a situation like Jim's. I hope I'm never tested to that degree. To those who are, I say God Bless You. I admire your courage. And regardless of the medical outcome, you've won. You've proven that the spirit prevails.

...and from Karen, the other half of that special husband and wife team of Ken & Karen...

Thoughts from a year ago: I remember such a fear that my friend Jim wuld not live to get onto the official transplant waiting list. Then when he was "official," I had trouble accepting how bad things really were for him. I feared that a heart wouldn't be found that was right for him - and I felt guilty when I'd pray that someone would die so that he would live. Throughout it all, I began to feel that I was turning emotionally stoney, trying not to let it get to me. Now, whenever Jim talks about rejection, the same old fear creeps in! Its so good to have Jim with us, a year later!

Love, Karen.

Jimmy's Adventure (From outside the Loop)

(Note: Ray and Steve were my childhood buddies - then I was known as "Jimmy"- we were the 3 Musketeers - from the 5th grade through the times of our small town high school days, later part of each other's weddings, then raising 3 families. Our special bond of friendship has survived even to today, through almost half a century as you can see from the following piece shared by Ray...)

Since my date recollection facilities never were very good, I intend to write this mostly without dates or time frames. Possibly out of chronological order also. There are some things I just don't care about. Like past dates!

Who knows where I was or what I was doing when I heard about Jimmy's heart problem. I remember that it was some time after he had gotten over what seemed to have been a lingering cold. He told me he had gone to a doctor with problems like being out of breath when he ran up the stairs at work, and being tired from carrying his attachˇ case across the parking lot. After some tests and exams, it was decided that the virus he'd had did some damage to his heart muscle. It was operating at a much lower efficiency than when it was normal. These messages were all penetrating my mind through my ears almost clinically, almost scientifically, without emotion. Almost. Deeper inside the worry began bubbling, as I was remembering that his father died of the same thing. Could there be a familial genetic predisposition to the heart's vulnerability to attacking viruses? Is Jimmy's heart also going to fail? Am I going to lose my lifelong friend? Let's get him a heart transplant! Why isn't he on a list somewhere? What kind of doctor has he got anyhow?

When I voiced any of these thoughts, Jim told me there was no such predisposition. It was just a coincidence. Also he told me it was far too soon to talk about a heart transplant. He said the doctor mentioned it as a possible option much farther down the road. There were a couple of medicinal programs to try first. There was a good possibility that a drug could be found that would stop or slow the rate of the heart muscle degeneration. Besides, Jim said he wasn't about to consider possibly bankrupting the family just to save his own life.

To tell the truth, I was angry. A stunned, quiet angry. I had just heard at least three statements that defied reality as I knew it and there was nothing I could do. Congestive heart failure. Didn't anyone see the same depth of danger that I was seeing? A frustrated anger without aim because there's no target to aim at. My friend was in serious danger and I couldn't fix the problem. I was angry because it seemed that no one even acknowledged the seriousness of the problem. My friend was dying and I was angry about it.

What would happen if I lost him? I couldn't imagine my world without Jimmy Gleason in it. I could remember before we met, but three-quarters of my life had taken place after that first meeting. Jimmy was my respite from a chaotic family, a connection to a calmer world. Our adventures together, no matter how zany, were a pleasant escape from my real world. The idea of losing this friend of mine was horrifying. After growing up together in the little mile square borough of Metuchen, NJ, we had lived in different states, had raised separate families, had followed different careers, developed different interests, but I had never been alone. I had always had a friend. As long as there was Jimmy Gleason, I had a friend. Our letters, then tapes, were a source of pleasure since we parted company back in 1960. I went off to ride the waves in the Navy and he went off to college at Seton Hall. He did his thing and I did mine, but we always communicated. I always had one true friend, this one friend who never voiced contempt or censure. And now that was being messed with, taken a chance with, and I was angry. I guess I was angry because I was scared. I grew up in the fifties; men didn't get scared in the fifties, they got angry. I was angry! Scared. How dare anyone take away my friend.

Jimmy's heart grew worse. Some time later I again mentioned a heart transplant. There were programs and studies he could qualify for. He should sign up now in case there's a long wait. With all the studies being done, it might not even cost him anything. How could he consider dying instead of trying anything else first? The hospital in Philadelphia was world renowned for its heart work. I asked my wife, Joyce, to look up the names of some of the heart specialists. Joyce is a Registered Nurse and she would know how to find out. Again, he said his doctor believed there were pharmaceutical solutions possible. Surgery was far down the road if somehow the drugs didn't work. I didn't know Jimmy's doctor, but I was certainly beginning to lose respect for his agenda. This fool was jerking around with my friend's life. Jimmy took his medicine as though it would make him better, as though the simple act of doing what the doctor said would make him better. Why wasn't someone in the family giving him a swift kick? Why wasn't Jimmy investigating this like he always investigated everything else? Was he in some sort of denial about how sick he was? What the hell was going on?

Still Jimmy's heart got worse. There were new numbers, lower percentages that I didn't understand except that they were bad news. It occurred to me that I was truly going to lose my friend. I asked my wife what would I do without Jimmy around somewhere? I wondered what I would do without the friend that wouldn't accept the low self-esteem my family had taught me? What would I do without the only person who had read a poem I'd written? Who would appreciate my creativity in making the audio letters for him to listen to? What would I do without a pal to walk through the woods with, or to explore a pet shop with, or share a self-improvement tape? With whom would I pick up a rock in a stream just to see what s under it? I was not going to have my friend anymore. I thought about the years that had passed and I was really very grateful that I had known Jimmy Gleason. He was one of those once in a lifetime people and I was fortunate that he had called me friend. I never had before thought of our time as finite. Somewhere in a dusty cobweb of my mind, I knew that someday one of us must attend the other's funeral, but that was hundreds of years away. Now there was a threatening doom and apparently we were not as invincible as I had always assumed. So I was happy that I had had this good friend for awhile. Of course, there were other friends, but he had always been a very special person to me. I wondered often what his wife and family would do without him. Fleetingly, I wondered if I was giving up hope.

The anger or frustration or scared that I was feeling continued to simmer. I didn't want to upset anyone by continually harping on what I saw as the inevitable hurrying toward Jim, but, even when I did mention it, no one seemed to be listening anyway. Or I was corrected. It was frustrating to see Jimmy failing because his doctor wasn't aggressive enough. As I saw it, the bottom line was that Jimmy's heart was continuously getting weaker. It was obvious to me that the drugs were not working, that there might not even be drugs that could work. Why wasn't it obvious to everyone? If this passive doctor kept doing the same thing, he would keep getting the same results. Simple logic predicted bad things.

Finally, finally, finally Jimmy was admitted to the hospital in Philadelphia. Finally, Jimmy was put on a waiting list for a heart transplant. He said he was admitted into the hospital because of his condition's seriousness and that would make him a high priority on the waiting list. Of course, I was sure he was in the hospital because the doctor had taken too long to exhaust the other possibilities. At any rate, there was no place safer for him and I was glad he was finally there. It was months after I would have admitted him, but I'm not his doctor.

I called Steve Pumm, a close friend of ours from the fifties whose busy schedule made him hard to reach, but as soon as he heard about Jimmy in the hospital, he became no longer hard to reach. He and I arranged to meet and visit Jimmy. I had thought it would be a pleasant surprise for Jimmy to see the two of us walk in together and I think it was. I was glad that we could still surprise and please him. That felt good. Somewhere during all this goings on, compounded by Jimmy's young nephew, Jake, slowly dying of leukemia, Jimmy needed a pleasant surprise. I was happy to be part of presenting it.

I don't know how long after that visit it was when Steve called me, but he was very concerned about Jimmy. They had just talked on the phone and Steve said that Jimmy was really down. Depressed. Not like Jimmy at all, Steve had said. He had never heard Jimmy like this. Jimmy had been waiting in the hospital for over five weeks without getting any closer to his new heart. Apparently Jimmy was getting weaker and he knew the efficiency enhancing heart medicine was not a long term thing. He was getting discouraged, according to Steve, and afraid he would not get a new heart in time. Steve and I talked awhile and decided we'd better go visit Jimmy as soon as possible. We assumed that we could cheer him somehow. This was a Tuesday night in October and the soonest both of us were free was two days hence. We agreed to visit again on the evening of October 19th.

On October 19th, Mary, Jimmy's daughter, called to tell me that the plan was in place for Jimmy to receive a new heart. Anything could go wrong up to the last second, but the procedure was underway. I called Steve, who was ecstatic that Jimmy was getting a heart. Of course, we also agreed we had to choose a different night to visit! Jimmy's Mother, Grace, called to tell me also. Grace and I, in one of our rare and short conversations, had previously sort of agreed that Jimmy's doctor could employ a more aggressive agenda than we were seeing. Now this good news had ended our mutual concern. We were both relieved and happy. My friend was still her child.

Mary diligently kept me up to date on Jim's progress with his new heart. Mary did a fine job of calling me, and whoever else was on her list, with updates. Joyce and I went to see Jimmy in the hospital and I was pleasantly surprised at the increase in his energy level and alertness. Amazingly soon, Jimmy was sent home and he began keeping me current on his own progress. I guess Mary retired! I went to visit at his house, and even though I still had to sterilize my hands before we shook, I was ecstatic that I was not going to lose my friend. His Mom was there and she was happy she wasn't going to lose her son. Jim and I even went for a walk down his block and he showed me his neighbor's fish pond. Things were getting good again. One of us may die tomorrow, but we certainly had today!

Shortly after the operation, someone in the Gleason family told me that the surgeon had stopped by to see Jimmy. I don't remember who told me, might even have been Jimmy. According to whomever, this doctor told him that there had been no time left. The surgery could not possibly have been put off any longer. Jimmy would not have been strong enough to surgically accept a new heart. I felt some vindication for my anger about the first doctor's casualness.Jimmy had said in one of our conversations that he had a renewed appreciation of the little things he'd see on his walks. Grasshoppers, butterflies and such. I didn't know how long that would last, but it was good to hear.

Also, I felt good when Jimmy said he finally understood something I had been trying to tell him. I enjoy the feeling when someone I care about learns something from me. What I had told him was that I thought sometimes praying was for saying thank you and not just for asking for more.

- Ray Williams, (as often heard in Jim's childhood calling voice:

("Heee.e.y.y.y Raaa.a.y.y.y!!")

Bruce (and his wife, Cheryl, and daughter, Jill) have grown from business friends to close extended family over the past 17 years

. . . they often visited while we waited there in the hospital and then again at our home - a very special gift since Jill was so afraid of hospitals, but she came anyway - "Thanks, Jill!" Bruce still works with me at Unisys and shares deep feelings through his own very personal and private poetry:

I am disguised
A rock, a wall, a foundation.
Being for others what I want to be
For myself.

Because of the unknown
Because of our past
Because of the possibilities
I felt.
Disguised as I am, no one will see - but I.

The family made visits
Whispers in the car
Was it for the living or the dead

We came, we went
My daughter, my wife
We smiled and shared,
And we continued.

And then we knew

The photographs are mine
Each a picture from a visit,
a movement of chairs
a holding of hands
a smile
a hug

I go to work, and Jim is there
I call and Jim answers the phone
I need advice and where do I go -
Like it never happened.

It hurt even in celebration
because the mortar and bricks did not hold -

And tomorrow is another day, with Jim

.. . .and for those into rhyme:

I have a friend named Jim
Who knows how to win with a grin
No more are we dreading
His reflection is spreading
He generates warmth from within.

- Bruce 11/95

Medicine for the Soul

(Note: A long time dear friend from work shares reflections on how the closeness of a heart transplant affected facing a cancer scare in their own life...)

It's difficult to separate the experience of Jim's heart transplant with the everyday experience of knowing Jim. He has such a positive outlook on life, that it was only natural that he would face this life threatening experience with a positive attitude and bring some good out of it. The actual heart failure, the waiting, period, the transplant and recovery process were shared so openly. It made us all look at life and reevaluate our priorities. Personal health and living life to the fullest seemed more important after reflecting on what Jim went through. But that too, was always Jim's philosophy.

I've been fortunate to have a healthy body. And I guess I take that for granted until I get a cold, upset stomach or something worse and really hate not being in control and feeling "myself". As a result of good health, I have never been very good at dealing with others who are sick. Please don't ask me to visit someone in a hospital. I have been known to get faint at the sight of someone recovering from surgery! So as Jim shared his experiences I read each one with an almost naive innocence, for lack of a better term, as to what someone was actually going through. And I saw illness, hospitals, tests and doctors from a different point of view. This hospital was a magic place full of special people and the experience that Jim was going through was full of positives. It was not like a sentence in a prison for doing wrong like I seemed to envision illness. In reading the stories, I didn't feel sorry for Jim but shared in his joy in over coming obstacles, boredom, procedures, etc.

I heard stories of how he shared his writings with other heart transplant candidates, patients and families. What a great medicine for the soul to share the positive experiences. Little did I realize how much the sharing of his experience would come to mean to me. This year I had to face my own personal heath crisis when I learned I had breast cancer. Talk about lack of control over your body! What was I to do, how could I handle this situation? Through Jim's writing and his personal counseling I faced my battle. I learned not to fear the hospital and doctors and that in itself was a major change in attitude. I learned to be an involved patient - I asked questions. I learned how to take my mind away on a pleasant adventure when I had to deal with an uncomfortable procedure. These "lessons" and many more from Jim's personal experience helped me to change my attitude and change my life.

My situation isn't life threatening at this time but that didn't change my need to better understand and control my situation. The positive mental attitude is a key ingredient in accepting and controlling your own life. I know, from personal experience, that Jim's shared experiences will continue to help many others as they did me.

Thank you, Jim,

A dear friend

The Miracle of A Morning Sunrise

(Note: Donna is my sister-in-law. The Sadvary family is a very close and loving family, especially evident during this time when their mother, Ceil, was at home in a coma. Donna, along with her Dad, Charlie, and her sisters: Jay (my wife), Pat, and Sandra (to introduce just those mentioned below) worked along with the rest of the family to care for Ceil every day. On the Gleason side of the family, nephew Jake was battling leukemia for his own life. In the middle of all this, God threw them all yet another curve, as Donna relates in her very emotional and special sharing.)

Donna: I have sat down repeatedly over the past few weeks to try and write this letter and found each time such overwhelming emotions that I could not continue. Even at this time I sit and cry, but I am determined to finish!"

Jim needs a heart transplant!" Words from my sister, Jay, over the phone. "We need to first go to the hospital and see if he is a candidate for a transplant."

I thought to myself , what if he's not!! My own heart was breaking, for Jim, for my sister, Jay, for their children, for both families. The Gleason's and the Sadvary's were each experiencing their own hardships and now Jim needs a heart? This was all too unreal, unbelievable, just could not be happening! Jay had such strength in her voice when we spoke. Pat and I couldn't talk because we choked up too much to say anything. Sandra just kept saying it had to work out. It was Jim who needed a heart.

I remember Dad wishing he could give Jim his heart, that at the age of 79, he had lived long enough. I remember that when I went to the hospital to see Jim with my husband, Billy, and Dad, I wasn't sure if I would be able to go through with it. But once there - Jim was, well.... "Jim"! Maybe a little tired and moving a little slower, but otherwise there was no change, Jim was "Jim"! I remember what seemed to worry people was that for a while Jim did not want his laptop PC there! That didn't seem to be a good sign. Jim always could be found on his computer. When I heard about the "Three Heart BEATS" ("Bodies Eagerly Awaiting Transplant Surgery" a name he had given the team formed with the two other patients awaiting heart transplants), I wasn't surprised. That was Jim!

After I'm guessing was about a month, I was on my way to work that October 19, 1994 at about 7:20am, driving down route 287 with the sunrise ahead of me and for the first time in my life I thought "This is the most gorgeous sunrise I have ever seen" The blues and pinks were magnificent! Then I thought to myself, "Jim's going to get his new heart today!" Just like that! It was such a strong feeling and something that seemed very positive. (Sound like someone YOU know?) I got to work about 8:00am and received a phone call shortly thereafter and the voice on the other end said "Jim has a heart, they're getting him ready. The heart will be here soon and they will check to see if everything is OK with it, but in the meantime Jim will be prepared for surgery." I cried and said the rosary. Then my skin crawled remembering what I had thought of that morning looking at that sky. I needed to know who was with Jay and that she was not alone and wished that I was there with her. I think we even told Mom, even if she didn't hear us, maybe she did! And I sat and waited for the phone call, which needless to say, was a lifetime in itself.

The call finally came and, as you know, everything did turn out fine. A textbook transplant! (Would JIM'S be any other way?) From there on, recovery, home in 10 days, Jay trying (and I do mean trying) to keep Jim down and reminding him he just had undergone heart surgery and to take it easy. I can hear Jim probably saying something like "Well lets try it out, it's something new!" And he hasn't stopped yet!

It truly was a miracle and something that both the Gleason's and the Sadvary's needed at this point in our families. It is true, God gives and God takes away. In Mom's passing, God took who He needed to come home to Himself, and in Jim's transplant, He gave a gift for all of us to remember. Life truly is Good!

"All my love Jim. God has truly blessed you. Thank you for being a constant reminder of MY own gifts in life."

- Love, Donna

The Florida Connection and Reflection

(Note: Chuck is Donna's brother and my brother-in-law who was, and still is, facing his own personal medical challenges...)

Life and time for me is measured by light. Therefore, the times I've spent with Jim appear endless. There is no story here, only time spent with my friend Jim. It seems like yesterday when I heard the news that my own Mom was seriously ill. Therefore, from the very beginning, Jim and Jay were at her side every weekend. Jim would spend so much of his time on the computer, so, I never thought he needed someone to talk to. Knowing that Jim and Jay would be with Mom and Dad on weekends, I, in turn, started the engine of my car and went down to the Jersey shore.

There I found people to talk to, drinks available, and a Hot Tub to hedonisticly enjoy. Weeks turned into months, and then the news that Jim had a virus attack his heart. Should he not care for himself, the virus was going to take his life. Jay and Jim continued their weekend visits and I would alternate between Florida and New Jersey every several months. During these visits Jim would start encouraging me to walk with him, which I not only enjoyed, but looked forward to. Jim and Jay's visits became another adventure for me. Jim and I began to share stories and experiences of life, work, personal health, and that of family members, Philosophy, Metaphysical Phenomenon, and the minds ability to aid in healing.

I forget when Jim went into the hospital for a heart transplant, yet I remember the lunch we had one day at his home in Collegeville, several months prior to that hospitalization. Jim took me to a local Japanese garden estate called Swiss Pines, with its' magnificent foliage, especially the intriguing Bamboo trees, the carp (fish) waiting for our leftovers. There were the garden's caretakers, who so warmly answered my questions, leaving me to conclude that their love and devotion to caring for this estate was so far removed from the pace that existed only a few miles away in Philadelphia. We spoke of the beauty of nature, and the good people who preserve this tranquility. There, in the middle of a huge estate, one person took the time to share his property and gardening hobby by turning his work into a public park. Then he entrusting his life's work to a couple that shared those ideals.

Several days later, while we were at Mom and Dad Sadvary's, Jim said: "Hey Chuck, let's take a ride." Off we went. . . the drive was only about ten minutes away, ending at Rutgers University botanical gardens. As we walked through the gardens, Jim boosting with pride, told me about his dates with Jay, prior to their marriage, when they would walk hand in hand for hours enjoying the beauty around them. Still later, he would return with Jay and their three children, much as his own father has taken him through the same azalea gardens when he was a kid. Jim knew the names of most of the plants throughout the gardens. I was beginning to see a man who enjoyed and shared his extraordinary visions of life. Most importantly, Jim was also expressing in words and ineffably the astonishing miracle of nature, his zest for life and unconditional love for his family and friends.

Soon I was on my way back to Florida, planning to stay there several months. When in Florida, I would telephone home several times a week to ask how things were with our family. I was in Florida for only several weeks when news that Jim's heart, due to the virus, was far more serious then originally thought, and his doctors were talking about his need for a heart transplant. Now here we go. I say "we" since during this time, Mom, Jim's mother-in-law, was confined to bed due to a cancerous brain tumor; his nephew Jake was undergoing relentless chemotherapy for Leukemia, and our whole family was on overload.

Cleaning up my affairs, so to speak, I left to return to New Jersey. Several days later, Dad and I were on the road to visit Jim at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. At first sight, seeing all the state of the art medical machinery chattering around his bed, Jim sitting on the side of his bed directing events of live with his mother, Grace, I was shaken. Not for more then a second did the shock remain, because Jim turned and with a big smile, stood up, greeting us with a hug and healthy appearance. We four sat for several hours with Jim filling in the details of his medical situation, and his only seemingly distress was the uncertainty of the length of time it would take for a heart to become available. He had quickly overcome the boredom of looking at four walls, and undertook numerous projects to relieve both his apprehension and boredom. After a while dad and Grace went to the cafeteria. Jim then said, " Let me introduce you to some of my new friends." Off we went, Jim with some strange computer type heart monitor in one hand, leading me from room to room, greeting each patient and introducing them to me as if he knew them for years. With each friend we met, Jim described the different reasons each was there, and all greeted Jim (and myself) with equal enthusiasm. Jim and two other patients awaiting a heart transplant, gave themselves the tag of the "Three Heart Beats". I wanted to put this hospital trio into words for a song, but never got the opportunity.

At this point it's difficult to describe my feelings, only that my feelings were not of sadness, sorrow, shock or trepidation by asking "the reason why?" Why did this happen to Jim? No, I found a peaceful calm and tranquillity overcome me. To best describe this I'll start with dad (Charlie) and Grace entering the room. Now Charlie and Jim had a way of communicating that could only be described as strange. Like they would start off with some astute deliberation which would suddenly increase. Then the volume of their voices would lend itself to who knew more about something that but only they knew what the hell was going on. Fortunately at this point, a priest walked into Jim's room, and, after introductions, the priest told a few interesting antidotes and jokes. We joined in prayer and communion. There was a glow around Jim that let me know that all was going to be OK.

Over the next few weeks while visiting Jim at the hospital we covered numerous topics, and the more we talked the more I realized that our topics consisted primarily of the future - topics of alternative medicine, the power of the mind, and the gift of believing in God's will. After my last hospital visit I had a special optimistic feeling that Jim was going to get through this crisis and be back to complete the goals he had set. My drive back to New Jersey, then onto Florida was with renewed spirited strength.

Several weeks passed in Florida when one day the phone rang and dad told me Jim had a successful heart transplant, and was now in recovery. The next few days were tense, but not of anxiety, only a renewed sensation of another obstacle Jim had overcome.

Then I remembered a philosophical quotation, " Success is not measured by the position one gains in life, but rather the obstacles one overcomes while trying to succeed ". Jim was surrounded by love from Jay and their children, his beautiful mother Grace, his brother and sisters, their families, and our total family and friends. All prayers were answered. Within several more days I was speaking to Jim by telephone from the hospital and I could feel the excitement he expressed over his new heart and solid energetic sense of his "Gift of new Life."

Time passed and one morning at exactly 7am, I received a telephone call from Jim. He was home and I will never forget the absolute prodigious exhilaration in his voice. . . Chuck, Jim said: "I feel great!" I almost thought I was going to need a heart transplant because my own heart was beating overtime. That telephone call, our numerous visits and talks over the last year, will remain with me forever. His progress and sharing is a "gift" I carry with me through each day.

A Newer Road...

(Note: As most readers know by this point, Bill is many things in my life: wife to my sister, Betsy; co-editor (but now Editor in chief!) of our family newsletter, the Gleason Gazette; father to my nephew, Jake; closest of friends to my own mother who lived with them for the past five years in her own "retirement"; and finally, one of my closest of friends. Bill and I have developed a very unique and special bond over the 30 years since joining our family through marriage. For the past nine years, "uncle" Bill has been discovering his gift of writing as "the not so old philosopher" in the family newsletter. Here he shares that gift again in reflecting about the very emotional years just past . . .)

It is important to the nature of this piece that some background of the events in my own life during the time from Jim's first discovery that his heart was failing up to the present moment when Jim celebrated his first successful year of living a full and quite often exhilarative year with his new heart. For without some background, I fear that my thoughts about Jim might sound a bit shallow and callous.

Our family discovered about eight months before Jim's heart became a critical situation that our third son, Bill, 26 years old, had leukemia. Unfortunately, after a sixteen month heroic fight he died on April 15, 1995 six months after Jim's successful surgery. As you can imagine, it was a most difficult time for myself and my wife. Here we were worrying and praying on two separate fronts. First for our son and second for my wife's brother and my best friend, Jim. Our priorities, if they can be named such, were with our son. What energy was left after spending months in a hospital or clinic each and every day was turned toward Jim and his family. Our prayers quite naturally included both and in fact during the first half of 1995 included a third, Jinny Schiedel, the mother of our second son, Adam's wife. She also failed to respond to the treatment of cancer and died on June 3, 1995. As if this was not enough to keep us busy in prayer, my dear friend and beloved mother-in-law, Grace, died suddenly on March the 21,1995. Once again I remind you that I give these details so you can better understand the traumatic lives we were living through the past eighteen months or so. It is unfortunate that as human beings there are times when we can not help but to make comparisons. In my mind I often thought of both Bill and Jim and the similarities of their own trials and tribulations during the time that they both fought through the uncertain times in their illnesses. I could not help but be jealous of Jim's situation for he had a concrete and highly successful opportunity for a recovery to full health; a heart transplant. Our son Bill faced a different road; he had acute and very active leukemia and was undergoing experimental treatment in South Carolina that was highly doubtful. In short, Bill needed a miracle, Jim needed a heart. I am in no way making light of Jim's situation, one in which he handled with maturity and a straight forwardness that I have seen in few others. Did the thought ever come to mind that I wish they could have changed places? I would be dishonest if I answered no. But when that question did come to mind I put it aside and simply regretted that I could not take the place of either Jim or Bill or more conveniently and enveloping, both. My wife, Betsy, and I often spoke of our willingness to walk hand and hand to heaven in an exchange for the return of Jim, Bill and Jinny's health. Of course, as we all know, the world does not work in such sane ways. Jim survived. Bill and Jinny did not. With all of this in retrospect, how do I feel about Jim's experiences, before, during and after his heart transplant.

As I said above, I consider Jim to be my best friend. And as best friends we often discuss our deepest and strongest convictions. Jim has an extremely strong faith in God, one that is much stronger than my own. He faced his situation in the truest sense of being a Christian; he would do everything in his God given powers to be the perfect patient. If a heart did not come in time or if the operation or succeeding days proved unsuccessful, he would accept this and greet his God with open arms. I took him at his word. I have known Jim long enough to realize that what you see is what you get. There are no facades to his beliefs. I suppose I had little reaction to this because I had known this for so long. The thought of the possibility of losing Jim was selfishly quite sincere. I would miss the constant encouragement that he gives me in all my endeavors. The thought of his own personal death, what it would mean to him and his family was only a shadow in my thoughts as I concentrated on my own life. With my wife at my side, we shared each day with my son and his wife, Maria, as they bravely fought with the same type of courage as Jim's.

There is of course, an impact on anyone whether it be family or dear friends, when you are close to a situation like Jim or Bill's. Bill's situation has, I have been told by close friends, changed the way their family members deal with one another; Bill's death was not looked upon as just another sorrowful event but a reason to contemplate the meaning of life for those who survive him. Jim's success has also impacted those close to him and again in a positive and meaningful way. Few who lived through the events that dictated his life over those months of apprehension, have not rediscovered the frail almost thread like existence we live. Life has become a bit more precious, I believe, to those who know and love Jim. Personally, I am confounded, even baffled by those who lived through either one or both of these life threatening occurrences and have not, at least seemingly to me, been changed by the events of the past two years.

It is quite easy for me to understand Jim's resurgence into life. He is one of the most active and alive persons I know, but consider that this is not a new and unique occurrence for him. He was always this way. I believe, however, that there is a difference between the old Jim (weak heart) and the new Jim (new healthy heart). The new Jim KNOWS the mystery of life, the old Jim simply suspected it. I have watched and listened to Jim as he becomes involved with more and more life supporting and life giving endeavors. Is there any downside to this? Yes! It is at times difficult for the people who share in his life to fully understand his never-ending enthusiasm and energy. Everyone who shares intimately in Jim's life has been changed to varying degrees, but only Jim, the renewed liver of life, the man with a realized purpose, knows to the fullest extent, that humans are allowed to know, the fragile, invisible line between this world and the next. So, when Jim carries on exuberantly about his life and the events that fill it, I sit and patiently listen. He KNOWS things I will never know.

It is important to remember that Jim was experiencing all the details I have described above as he was finding his way back to a normal life. He lost his Mom after she had nursed him back to health, he lost his nephew who talked with his Uncle Jim on many occasions of the similar thoughts and experiences they both shared as they battled their illnesses. In fact, his first trip away from home after his heart transplant, was with me to South Carolina to help me gently give my son the news of his grandmother's death.

How have these events affected my essence? Who am I now that I was not before? In what ways have these events changed me forever? Here again, I must remind you that it is difficult, near impossible, for me to separate the events of these two men. They are the two sides of the same coin; the life and the death, the alpha and the omega, the present and the future. I am now, most certainly, a different man. I fear little if anything. I think less about the future and more about the present. I have said good-bye to the Ferris wheel ride through life and now ride the roller coaster without nearly as much panic. I have written in the past that I believed life to be a walk down a wide, an complacent road that we travel on most of our lives. Occasionally coming to a juncture, a turning point, an event that changes our lives; a death, a birth, a wedding. We spend, however most of our lives on the wide, safe, familiar road until we reach one of these junctures. I find more junctures to cross now. Those times when life is more a tight-rope balancing act than a walk down a wide road. Indeed, I am now beginning to be capable of helping others cross their own junctures. I find myself much less embarrassed by life's events than in the past. I no longer shrink away from those in pain or in need because of my own embarrassment of not knowing how to handle these emotions. After watching these two brave men endure the probing and continuous invasions to their bodies and in a more substantial way their spirits, how can I let something as trifle as my embarrassment curtail me from doing what is right or what is needed. I feel an overwhelming need to learn from these experiences a valuable lesson of what life truly means.

Each of these two men has taught me a great lesson in how to live life. Jim showed me how a man faces a life threatening event with optimism and faith. Bill taught me how to transcend this world with a dignity that only man is capable of and only God can provide. I now, because of these two men, am unafraid to die and just as importantly, I am unafraid to really live. I find myself to be more patient, more caring, and more understanding of others. I carry more sorrow, but ironically, I also carry more hope. I feel more at peace with everyday events and happenings and find myself to be content wherever I find myself, whatever I am doing. Strangely enough, the combination of watching and listening to Jim's exuberance and the feeling of peacefulness that I experience when I think of Bill in a pain free world of Love, I sense a beautiful serenity. As if, after all, life has a balance.

During the many months of these events I found myself, because of the circumstances of these two men, becoming closer to many family members and friends, and through this experience learned how important it is to allow everyone their own individual thoughts and expressions, regardless of how different they might be from my own, to be fully expressed. Everyone involved in a life threatening situation needs a place to vent their feelings of apprehension and fear and also their feelings of hope and recovery. And in this endeavor the patient himself plays a very large role. So often the well-wisher takes his cue from the patient. My observations of these two men is that they both did this well. But it is important that each support person not only supports the patient but is a constant source of support to the rest of the family members and friends. This is much harder than at first it might seem. Every person's depth of realization of the situation as a whole is on a different level. Some may be able to grasp the meaning of losing a loved one's life while others can not bridge that thought as long as the loved one is clinging to life. There is a purpose for every different consideration. While one family member may be able to make tentative future plans, another may be capable of breaking a particular day's tension with an amusing story. While one is capable of dealing with the medical terms, the doctors and their technical jargon, another may understand the need for bringing outside life into the hospital. For as many different supporters there will be an equal amount of different ways to support. It is imperative for both the patient and the family to understand this. It is crucial that no one misunderstand another family member's intentions. Everyone in their own way, on their own level is doing the best that they can under the trying circumstances of this life threatening event.

Jim has relinquished his number one friend status. My son, who is now even closer to me than he was while he shared this earth with me, has replaced Jim at the number one position. Jim is now my number one earthbound friend, a position I know he fully understands as he also keeps his lost loved ones with him every day. In this regard we have both learned the same painful lessen. Yet, we support each other's endeavors more ardently today than ever before. We have both crossed life changing junctures. And in the crossings have found that life disperses its sorrows and joys to everyone. Life continues. Be it full of sorrowful memories or joyful recollections, life continues. There is no guarantee of safe passage, no way of turning back, no rest area at the many junctures we must cross in our lives. But when there is a friend's hand to steady you across these tight-rope walks of life, the journey becomes far easier and a newer road is found. A road that is never walked alone.

- Wm. W. Kolacy,

Jim's brother-in-law and best friend

A Chance of a Lifetime - and the Moral of this Chapter

In re-reading over the above beautiful sharings, I am reminded of Bill's very thoughtful observation as we reflected together over some of the words given as such beautiful gifts by family and friends above. He said, "Jim, you're a very lucky guy!" Now, I can assure you that I didn't need Bill to point that out to me as I look back over this past year and feel the strong beating of this new heart within my chest. But he was referring to something else and went on to explain: "Not many of us live to hear our own eulogy." Now that was a unique reflection, and Bill was so very right.

So many very close to me undertook the challenge of searching down deep inside themselves to discover and share their own experiences in being so close to "a transplanted heart" as a help to you. They found it very emotional, and many were unable to follow through on their initial willingness to write down those feelings. To those who did, and those who tried but found it "just too hard" - I understand, and thank you for your support, prayers, love and caring. You will never know how much you have meant to myself, and all the rest of us too. Without you I would not be enjoying the beautiful quality of life I share with all of you today. I hope your gifts of self will allow others reading this to better understand that what they are going through is "normal" and very important, to themselves and to their own loved ones - patient, family and friends alike. All our prayers go out to you who follow in this special path of life through transplant. You can do it. You can make a difference. Just follow "your own heart" - and do what it tells you to do. Not tomorrow - for we know not what tomorrow brings. Do it today...

One final thought. Why is it we so often wait until someone we love can no longer hear us to finally express our love and affection as so many have done in this chapter of sharings? As one who has cried through these readings many times already, I hope and pray that you can benefit from our experience (and Bill's "not so old philosopher" wisdom). Why not sit down and write your own feelings and reflections on those so special in your own life - and then give your own "Gift of the Heart" to them - while they are still alive and able to enjoy that rare gift of love! Don't wait and find yourself adding: "I wish I had only told them..."

Sincerely and with HEARTfelt thanks,

- Jim Gleason

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