Heart to Heart
Organ recipient encourages others to donate
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Seven years ago, Mary Davis of Hartselle was suffering from a broken heart.
A virus had attacked her heart muscles and caused congestive heart failure.
After more than a year of medicinal treatment by cardiac doctors at The University of Alabama at Birmingham's Kirkland Clinic began to fail, Davis decided it was time for a new heart.
"When the doctors said, 'Let's take out your heart and put in another,' my first response was no," Davis said. "I kept thinking I would just overcome it, but when the doctors gave me less than a year to live with that old heart, the good Lord and I had a long talk."
Davis said that talk resulted in a true desire to receive an organ transplant, a factor doctors said was essential to her placement on a transplant list.
On Feb. 21, 1996 Davis became the 426th transplant recipient at UAB. Since that day, Davis said her life has been more blessed than ever.
"One year after my transplant, my son married a wonderful young lady," Davis said. "I keep their 3 1/2-year-old daughter Shelby one day and night each week. Every time I see Shelby, I thank the Lord for giving me the strength to have that operation."
Davis said she and her husband of 37 years, Jimmy, moved into a townhouse after the transplant to reduce the amount of house and yard work for her and to allow them both to spend more time with family.
"I can do most anything except heavy lifting and chores that release allergens," Davis said. "My daughter-in-law comes once a week to dust and vacuum, which really helps me out a lot."
Davis' aversion to dust and other allergens is part of her post-transplant care. To avoid exposure, Davis often wears a mask to cover her nose and mouth to lessen the risk of lung and other infections.
"Even common ailments are scary now," Davis said. "People often reject transplanted organs, but I am going to Birmingham Feb. 24 for my yearly check-up and I'm expecting a good report."
Davis credits her post-transplant progress to her faith and to following the doctor's orders. She takes seven maintenance drugs each day, monitors her blood pressure, temperature and weight, exercises daily, and follows a strict low salt-low cholesterol diet. In case of an emergency, Davis keeps her medications and medical information with her in a black travel bag at all times and wears a special bracelet to identify her as a transplant patient.
"I don't leave home without it."
Since Davis' transplant, each of her family members has decided to become organ donors. Davis said her transplant experience truly opened her eyes to the great need that exists in Alabama and across the nation.
"Others don't realize how many people are on that waiting list," Davis said. "It makes me realize how lucky I was to have only waited eight months for a donor. Some people have to wait until it's too late."
Davis said even though the decision to become an organ donor or to donate the organs of a loved is difficult,the benefits are great.
"Organ donation not only prolongs a person's life, but also gives them a better quality of life," Davis said. "I know how hard it is to give up a loved one and then have to give up their organs, but one person's organs will help so many-more than they will ever know. I think the peace about the decision to donate comes from knowing that your loved one hasn't died in vain. A part of them will give life to others."
To become an organ donor, discuss your wishes with your family and indicate your decision on your driver's license. For more information, visit www.organdonor.gov