Today I want to share my grandfather’s story with you.
Gary West is the second longest living heart transplant patient in the United States and the third in the world. That’s a huge deal. This man inspires me everyday that miracles do happen and anything is possible.
Gary was the head Foreman for Trico dock center at the lake, this business started on his property, all the plans and designs were his. My grandmother was a EMT for 21 years and has done many other things too. Our family wasn’t rich but we were wealthy. I remember they took a vacation once a year for 2 weeks to a different state each time. They are country lovers who went dancing every Friday night.
25 years ago my grandfather Gary had a heart attack working in the shop. He was taken to the hospital, he then found out he had a heart disease and would need a defibrillator and would soon need a heart transplant. Eight months later they found him a perfect match and on June 1, 1992 at Barns Jewish hospital in St. Louis Missouri he had an open heart transplant. His donor was a 16 year old girls heart, he was honored to meet her parents and thank them for the new heart a few months afterwards.
Since his heart transplant 24 years ago Gary West has two pace makers, several Stent and more than 30 minor surgeries. Gary also had a Kidney transplant November 15, 2013 and his Gull bladder removed July 2016. Gary takes 21 medications daily and has to stick to a low sodium diet. He has had 7 major surgeries and has been pronounced dead on the operating table twice. Gary has had more than a dozen skin cancers removed from his skin and has had to undergo dialysis and chemo treatments twice. Barnes Jewish Hospital calls him The Bionic man and he has an audience every time he steps into the hospital. He has to have Lasix through an IV at least once a month to drain access fluid from his body. Just three weeks ago he was admitted with pancreatitis and had to have 8 lbs of fluids removes from his body. He seriously looked 8 months pregnant.
This man has had a very challenging life and has spent about half of it in the hospital. However despite everything he has been through he still wakes up every day thankful he is still alive. He was only given 6 years to live and has survived 24 years now.
He pushes himself every day to get out of bed and exercise, he does more for others than he does for himself. Gary spends every day cooking, cleaning, and driving for others who can not drive themselves or those who don’t have a car. He believes it is his responsibility to take care of their needs. He says it is his way of helping support his family that he can no longer physically take care of. Gary is always there when someone needs him and he enjoys being the “go to guy” because it makes him feel needed still. He can not work and has not made a pay check in 25 years, he receives a monthly disability but that does not cover his bills. His wife (My grandmother) has to work 3 jobs to keep them a float. They own their home sitting on 10 acres, however, can not pay all the bills between her income and his disability check. My husband and I live in the home with them and take care of the both of them and pay what they can not, including our own bills. His wife had a double hip replacement 7 months ago. Life is not grand for us, we do what we can. In the end it is all worth it because we get to wake up to this man every day. I couldn’t imagine life without him and I am very thankful for every moment I have been able to spend with him and every moment my babies get to spend with their great grandfather. He has 3 children, 6 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.
Although he has not been noticed by the media like most, he truly deserves to be recognized.
Who inspires you?
Here are links to the other longest living Heart Transplant Recipients: