On December 5, 2009, Bill had a “widow-maker” heart attack. But Bill didn’t think that’s what was happening. If it had been a heart attack, he would have died, he thought. But five days later when he finally went to the emergency room, doctors told Bill that he had suffered a massive heart attack and that they were surprised he had survived. That’s when Bill began a five-month stint in two different hospitals. Eventually, he was listed for a heart transplant.
Years later, Bill was back in the hospital on a balloon pump and pain medication, anticipating a week of roller-coaster emotions from news about his quickly deteriorating heart. But in the early morning hours of May 13, 2010, the day before his 61st birthday, Bill’s nurse informed him that there was a potential match. The next thing he remembered was waking up, looking down at his patched up-chest and then over at his smiling family. The next day—his birthday—Bill walked around the hospital. It was a new start.
A few months later, Bill and his daughter Erika walked in the Donor Dash. He remembers a blond woman handing them their goodie bags as they crossed the finish line. Two weeks after that, he received a letter from his heart donor’s parents, Debbie and Larry. He learned his donor’s name was Tyler, and that he had been an avid goose hunter. The closing of their letter read,
“This fall when the leaves have changed and you hear the distant sound of geese, just smile. That’s all the thanks Tyler would have wanted.”
“It took me almost an hour to get through the two page letter,” Bill said.
He wrote back, enclosing some photos of his family and one of himself crossing the finish line at the Donor Dash.
That fall, while waiting to hear the sounds of “Tyler’s geese,” Bill got another letter and photo from the donor family. He recognized the blond woman—Debbie—holding a photo of her son. It was the woman who had handed Bill his goodie bag at the Donor Dash! It was just one of many coincidences in Bill’s journey to meet his donor family.
Debbie, Larry and Bill continued communicating, first through Donor Alliance and eventually on the phone and through Facebook, before they finally met in early January. On January 11, 2011, they took a trip together to Pennsylvania to see Larry’s family and to celebrate a late Christmas. “They are great friends and I love learning more about Tyler’s life,” Bill said.
“Tyler’s spirit is alive and well, right here!” Bill says. “And I’m only one of five people whose lives were directly saved by Tyler. I just happen to be the guy that God chose to receive the gift of a new heart.”