This month myHeart, yourHands has been intentional in focusing our blog posts on the topic of organ donation by highlighting individuals who have been impacted by cancer, yes, but also, organ donation. Each of the individuals featured is living a LIFE-Inspiring as they are intentional in paying it forward to the benefit of others.
Today’s post is written by MHYH Co-Founder, Judy Bode, who continues to await heart transplantation for restrictive heart failure resulting from radiation that cured her Hodgkin’s disease, yet left her with a broken heart. She recounts a recent encounter with another kindred heart, a heart that was an infusion of hope into her weary heart.
I give you, Judy.
“Two months ago I had the privilege and honor to meet a Calvin College student, who only 23 months ago received the miracle of a new heart. Stephen Okeyo and I were introduced to each other through a fellow Calvin alumnus. We met at Calvin’s coffee shop and chatted for 1 1/2 hours; sharing our stories, laughing, and shedding an occasional tear.
Stephen came to Calvin from Kenya. He arrived to a new country, new culture, new school, and new friends. His heart failure came on suddenly while a freshman, caused by an aneurysm in his heart. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic and then Ann Arbor performed 5 heart surgeries. Ultimately they were not able to fix his heart and Stephen required a heart transplant. He was listed with UNOS for 11 days when a heart became available. Stephen’s mother was at his bedside in the hospital when the doctor delivered this news.
As I listened to his story, I kept thinking, my story is so different. I have been and am surrounded by people I know, in a city where I have lived most of my life. I have been cared for by some doctors for decades, and my heart has been failing for many years. But the end of our stories remains the same. We both need(ed)a new heart. We both need(ed) the gift of life from a stranger.
Stephen tells his story with grace and strength. His faith is evident as I asked him, “Stephen, how did you cope with all of this: so many surgeries, so close to death, and so far from home?” He very quietly and assuredly responded, “I know that God put up a shield, He protected me so that I was never too anxious or too overwhelmed. It is God’s grace that made this all possible.”
We decided to keep in touch. Stephen is a senior now at Calvin College and hopes to graduate next spring. He is strong, he runs, and he appears so healthy. Fortunately, Stephen has not been overly sick despite the fact that he is surrounded by potentially virus-infected college students while on anti-rejection meds. Stephen is a miracle. His story gives me hope.
I invite you to read Stephen’s story at www.calvin.edu/spark/past-issues/heart-in-hand
LIFE-Donated resulting in LIFE-Inspiring: Give Thanks. Give LIFE.
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