I’ll never forget the supper day in 1986 when my strong 34-year-old husband, a farmer, came into the house and collapsed into the recliner. He quickly told me he was struggling to breathe and I immediately noticed his chest “pumping” as if his heart was on overload. The events of what happened shortly after are somewhat ablur, but we soon found ourselves in the office of Dr. Wolford in Louisville. We discovered Bobby had cardiomyopathy and would eventually need a heart transplant. Transplants were still relatively new procedures then. Another farmer who lived a few miles from us had a successful procedure, but there was much to mentally process and deal with for our young family as we had three daughters, ages 3-6.
By 1988, things were worse and doctor appointments and tests were consuming much of our days. We managed the best we could on our farm, but Boby had to cut his normal daylight to nightfall hours and we were not in a position to pay someone to work for us on a daily basis. How could this be happening to the guy who was a leader in our LaRue County farming community? He was on the fair board, an officer in an organization know as Young Farmers both on the county and state level, and a member of the LaRue County Extension Council. He was all about service and being a good dad to our daughters- Beth, Allison, and Katie.
As a part of the testing for transplant, he was required to not have the blood-thinning medicine for a short period of time so that everything could be accurate. It was Memorial Day weekend, usually tobacco setting time for our area, when he awoke unable to move part of his body- a stroke and a major set back for being a transplant recipient.
Months of hospitalization and rehabilitation followed. The girls and I visited often and he was determined to get back on that transplant list He eventually was able to return home and our new normal began. I was back to work and with some assistance, he was able to do daily routines and go to local physical therapy.
On valentine’s day of 1990, his doctors approved him for the return to the transplant list. What a great gift of love for all of us! By now, he was able to take care of the girls on his own when they weren’t in school, and I was pursuing additional classes for my Rank 1 as my income was pretty much our livelihood.
I’ll never forget the day we received our call to come to Jewish for a possible transplant. It was June 12 and we rushed to Louisville hoping this was the time. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t meant to be as a gentleman from Indiana was determined to be a better candidate. We came home and started over, hoping for another call.
Bobby ran out of time. On June 22, he was rushed by ambulance to Hardin Memorial Hospital, but we all knew it was too late. Basically, his heart, no longer able to pump, exploded.
We had talked a bit about organ donation, but not a great deal. I knew in that horrific moment he would want to be a donor. One last act of service.
Because of the nature of his death, major organs were not able to be donated, but tissues, muscles, bones, veins, and corneas were recovered. Twenty-five to thirty people alone benefited from the donation of his tissue. One of his corneas went to an 87-year-old woman suffering from aphakic bullous keratopathy and another wen to a 24-year-old man debilitated from Keratoconus.
The days that followed were rough, but we made it through because of our faith in God and the community around us. Bobby’s final act had a tremendous impact on the community as he was so well known and many began saying yes to being a registered organ donor as a result. I became an advocate for organ donation and our girls did too.
Today, everyone is grown and there are grandchildren. One of the grandsons is a walking, talking replica of his grandfather with the same mischievous smile and heart of service. Though he never knew him, we still have a bit of Bobby in our lives. on a grander scale, there are others with a portion of him as well.
Organ Donation matters!