July 5, 2011

This Blog Has Nothing to Do with the Glass Industry, But You Should Read It Anyway

By Paul Bieber

Today the glass industry is not important. I have a story to tell, one so important that it must be published. This is a story about my next door neighbor. For this story, let’s call him Bill, but everything else about this story is absolutely true. Read on.

Even though Elaine and I live in a fairly rural area of New Hampshire, we do have a next door neighbor. Bill lives about 1000 feet down the road. His wife and daughter live at home and their grown son lives about an hour away. Bill is a tall, thin, and normal person about 50 years old. About two years ago he developed symptoms that Doctors had a hard time understanding. There was about a year of extensive testing and head scratching. It turned out Bill’s heart was failing.

In October of last year, Bill and his wife went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He was there for two months and was told his only option for life was a heart transplant. Talk about life-changing. He came home under a plan that the Mayo would call him at any time, and he would jump on a chartered jet for the operation in Minnesota.

The travel logistics were slightly confusing, to say the least. So Bill and his wife went to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, about an hour and a half away from here, for a second opinion. After a couple of weeks there for testing, their opinion was the same. His only choice would be a heart transplant. His condition deteriorated even more, and Mass General felt he should not go back home as any infection or problem could have disastrous results. In the second week of January, Bill was admitted to the Coronary intensive care of the hospital, to await his surgery.

Mass General usually does about 25 heart transplants a year. But not this year. Bill lived in the hospital for almost six months, waiting. He had a couple of ‘possible’ hearts, but they turned out not to be compatible. From January through June, the Hospital only did a handful of transplants. It seems that less donor hearts were available because of some amazing statistics:

  • More cars have air bags as new cars replace old ones, fortunately killing less people.
  • Also, the whole country is driving less because of the price of gas. Most heart donors come from automobile accidents.

Bill’s wife took the train to Boston four or five days a week, keeping his spirits up. Elaine and I went in often as well, bringing in food and having mini-parties in his room. Bill started having second thoughts, but his Doctors explained that if he did go home, even for a day, it could have very bad repercussions.

Bill wanted to get home for so many events. He was crushed that he could not attend his daughter’s high school graduation. So, we took the graduation to him. She graduated on Saturday morning three weeks ago. Saturday afternoon, we all drove into Mass General. His daughter came in her cap and gown and we had a real party that was set up and organized by the caring hospital staff. Bill was so happy.

Then, as we left, it was back to the normal days in the cardiac unit. Except, on the very next day, at 3:00 in the afternoon on Sunday, a heart was brought into the hospital. It matched. In the blink of an eye, the surgery started. It took over fifteen hours to complete the surgery by dozens of surgeons, nurses and staff. It was a success from the first new heartbeat.

Last Thursday, Elaine and I drove into Boston and brought Bill home. When he saw his home for the first time in almost six months, he was ecstatic.

Think about it. Two and a half weeks after this incredible surgery, he was home feeling better than ever. He will be monitored for life, and have to be careful with certain health situations, but this is a minor inconvenience considering the alternative.

Miracles defy explanation. This is not a miracle, but is the result of hundreds of dedicated doctors, nurses, aids, lab techs and so many more. This is because of a family of a deceased person who helped another life continue. This is because Bill’s family always smiled and cheered him on, month after month.

This is because of health insurance that covered expenses and employers who granted time off. This is because of years of research and testing by medical labs. And yes, there is a little bit of miracle thrown in.