BELGRADE - According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are more than 116,000 people waiting for an organ transplant. But now, one local Belgrade man is no longer on that list.
Heart transplant recipient Chris Kowalski had two ventricular ablations that failed and a pacemaker/defibrillator put in before ultimately needing the transplant.
“And this is 15 years down the road, so I held it off for a while, and at that point, it just was obvious that a transplant was the next step and the only step,” he said.
Chris had a heart transplant on April 3, 2016. Grand Rapids, Michigan is where he had to travel to receive his transplant.
When asked if he was scared about the procedure Chris reflected, “You want to avoid it and it comes to a point where you have to accept it and that’s the only thing that you take one day at a time.”
“I just had to decide what I needed to do, what can I do to make this work. Make it happen and rely on faith and God and the doctors. And I had a great team,” he said.
Chris had an infection in his defibrillator’s driveline, which caused him to need a new heart. While waiting in the hospital, a nurse delivered the surprising news that within the space of an hour, his new heart was available for transplant. She had to convince him it wasn’t an April Fool’s Day joke.
“So it was odd calling my family, me with a humorous sense, calling them on April Fool’s Day to tell them that ‘Oh relax, I got a new heart. The surgery starts in the morning’,” Kowalski said.
This is all thanks to an organ donor who made a difference.
"It’s important to become an organ donor because you can either leave the world with tragedy, or you can leave the world and leave behind a gift of life, a chance for someone else,” said Tiffany Kuehl, doctor of emergency medicine at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital.
Chris had some final words to say to the family that lost their young man.
"To the organ donor’s family, I am so sorry for your loss that has become all of our gain. For all of the recipients that received organs that evening and tissue, it goes on, what was donated,” Kowalski said.
“I just thank them for my current life and I hope to honor your son’s organ, my new heart, our new heart because he lives on with me and through me. There’s nothing I can say for it, other than thank you! My family thanks you.”
Chris went on to quote Ezekiel 26:24 - "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh"
Donations to help Chris Kowalski's medical expenses can be made here.
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