A Roller Coaster of a Christmas Miracle

Well, I woke up Sunday Morning...............

Hey that sounds like a great first line of a song

But Tiffany and I got up extra early because she wanted to hit the grocery store before it was packed. So we did, then went to breakfast at Frisch's, all before 8 am. When we got home we woke Tanner up, and we all got ready for church.

Right around 9, my phone rang. Ugh, work. Need to dispatch a team to Buckeye Lake. Took a few minutes and got them dispatched, hung up, and it rang again. Another job, in West Virginia. I wound up being on the phone until 9:30, and we needed to get out the door as Little Red was scheduled to work the Guest Services desk at Centerpoint for both Christmas Eve services. We headed to the car. And my phone rang again. Yet another, much bigger emergency job. I had to go. No church for me. I put Tiffany and Tanner in her car and sent them off, then I headed towards the flooded day care center.

I decided to take Broad street to get there. As I was in front of Mt. Carmel East, the phone rang yet again. Ugh, I thought, gonna be quite a day.

I was right.

My caller ID said Little Red. That eased my tension a little as I said hello, as I figured she needed to tell me something about church. But then, with a crack in her voice, she said it.

I got the call.

I asked her to repeat it.

I got the call. We have to get to the hospital.

I don't think I even looked at the traffic light or the other cars. I just did a U-turn across 5 lanes and raced back towards the house. She said she would meet me there. Along the way I called my boss, who said don't even think about work, just go. I called my Sister, whose family was on their way to Florida for vacation. She turned around. Then I pulled into the driveway, where My wife, son, and Tiffany's cousin Susie were waiting. We jumped in the car and headed to Ross Heart Hospital at OSU.

We are very familiar with the hospital. In the last 14 months, she has spent almost 7 weeks here, not including countless appointments, blood work, and tests. We know them, from the patient experience people to the nurses, PCA's, scrub techs, and doctors, they all make us feel like Norm from Cheers whenever we walk in. And Sunday was no different, as Feaven was at the desk when we walked up. She was as excited by the news as we were.

They took her to the ICU floor and began the preliminary procedures that are needed before transplant. For 2 hours they took blood, checked vitals, and talked to us about what to expect. Then her surgeon walked in the room.

Dr. Shukrallah (Dr. Sammy) knows my wife well. He put in both of her LVAD's, had a shouting match with my wife in the lobby of the hospital, and ultimately was told by her that she trusts him implicitly. Whatever he said to do, she would do. If you know my wife, that is no small feat.

His words cut through the room. "Guys, I took a second look at the ultrasound of this heart. The septum (I think that's what he said) is too thick. I believe it may have contributed to the donor's death. So I rejected it.

My own heart dropped. She is Type O. Not only is that the universal donor, it is also the rarest heart to find. Add in her tiny frame and we all knew it may be months or years before another came available. But Tiffany didn't see it that way. As I was disappointed, she was not. She said it wasn't meant to be and the right heart will come in time. She said she trusts Sammy, and that God has a plan.. We packed up and headed home.

We met my sister and her husband at Red Robin at five. Tiffany's Mom also joined us. We talked about the day and everyone was in good spirits, with her infectious positive attitude setting the tone. My Sister told us they would leave for Florida Christmas morning, and we all said good bye.

We went home, opened gifts with the boys, and Tiffany and I spent the rest of the evening playing Mario Brothers on my mini-original Nintendo she got me. As we worked through the worlds, we talked about what happened. I said to her "It's just us now, you can tell me, aren't you at least a little disappointed?" And she said "Not even a little. I know I will get a heart, and it will be the perfect one for me." I jokingly said "maybe it will come tonight", and she replied "not a chance, got to sleep."

I am used to my phone ringing in the middle of the night. With what I do for a living, I very often will jump up out of a dead slumber and go help someone who has had a fire. But it wasn't my phone. It wasn't my ringtone. And it startled me. I wasn't even sure what was happening until I hear Little Red say hello.

Her jaw dropped and her mouth was wide open. "Yes, yes, ok, yes, all right we are on our way." She hung up, looked at me, and said I just got the call, again.

We quickly gathered what she needed, called her cousin Lyndsay to come stay at the house with the kids, and headed out. Tiffany's cousin Susie met us there, with her  mom, my sister and her husband coming an hour or two later. They took us back to the 4th floor of Ross, and we started the process again.

We had a little trepidation at first. After all, we had just been here, just had a dry run. Nothing was guaranteed until they had the heart in their hands and determined it was viable and a good match for her. Around 4 in the morning they turned her Pacemaker off and told us a member of the surgical team had was on his way to get the heart. We were way further along in the process than we had been a few hours earlier when we were sent home. They began the pre-op IV's. Dr. Sammy came in the room told us he believed this was the perfect heart for her. He told us it was all systems go.

They took her back at 7:03 a.m. We waited, got updates, and waited some more. Finally, Sammy pulled us into a consultation room and told us the heart was in and beating perfectly. There were complications with her pressures though. She wasn't maintaining them. They were going to leave her chest open and give her meds to help keep the pressures up.

I did not take the news well, and went into shut down mode. I tuned everyone out and began to pray. I can never remember praying like that before, even when I begged God not to take my mother. I thanked him for everything he has done so far. I begged him not to take her, but also asked that his will be done, whatever that means. I said amen and raised my head. And I cannot describe the peace I felt in that moment.

Soon after, I got a text from our friend Steve, who has been Tiffany's "LVAD Mentor". He told me the same thing happened to him, and that it's normal. That was comforting. But when Steve's LVAD mentor, Mike, messaged me and said the same thing, I started to realize it really was normal.

She has been in recovery ever since, steadily improving. Overnight last night, she took a big step forward, as her pressures are now in the zone they are supposed to be naturally. At 7 a.m. this morning they did another procedure to close her chest. And as I was typing the last sentence, they called us to go back and see her. Her colors are good, her pressures are still perfect, and she is beginning to wake up.

God is Great.

It has been a roller coaster of a Christmas. But in the end, Little Red got the greatest Christmas gift any person has ever received, with the exception of the First Christmas.

We are so grateful to the nurses, doctors, PCA's, scrub techs, and everyone else at The Ross Heart Hospital. Especially Dr. Sammy, maybe we should call him Sammy Clause.

We are grateful to our tremendous support network who have been there every step of the way and tended to our every need. Especially Tiffany's cousin, Susie and mom, Chuckie,
 and my sister Angelia and her husband David, who have been our rocks.

We are grateful for the countless prayer warriors who have spoken her name and asked for healing. Prayer works, she is living proof.

We are grateful to the donor and their family, who were on the giving end of this wonderful gift. And we pray for them, as the emotions they are dealing with are the opposite of our jubilation.

And most of all, we are grateful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He has had his hand on my wife during this entire process and, at the end of the day, once again made a wonderful gift possible on his own birthday. He is truly the great physician, and he is always, always on time.

Tiffany, I know you will read this. I want you to know I am so grateful that God chose to put us on each other's path. You are my hero, my inspiration, and a rock star. It is going to be my absolute honor and privilege to be by your side for the rest of our lives. And I cannot wait to see what you do next, because you can do anything you decide to do. I love you Little Red. And yes, I will do the Camino de Santiago with you.

But I am still not zip lining.

Day # 1730. I have been telling her to hurry up and get better, we have A LOT to do. It is really really good to be me!



  1. I can NOT find words... I am so SO soooo happy. Praying for her speedy and complete recovery. I love yall!!!!

  2. Great summation. No one knows what the spouse of a transplant patient goes through on their loved one's journey unless they have been there. Each is different but shares a common thread, prayer and hope work. Continued prayers and feel free to call.

  3. I don’t know you or Little Red but it gave me joy to read this and I wanted to thank you for sharing. God is amazing and obviously with you.


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