Paul's Change of Heart

 

Written by Amy Dee Stephens in the February 2019 Issue

Amaral Family

Two heart-covered paintings hang in the living room of the Amaral family, forever reminding them of that moment in time when Paul received a life-saving heart transplant.

Change of Heart

“It was Valentine’s Day 2017 when we made these paintings,” Stephanie said. “Paul was on the waiting list for a new heart. His medical team helped host a Valentine painting party by Paint Your Art Out. They said the heart paintings would bring us good luck. Two days later, we got the call that a donor heart was available. It was exciting, but really scary. Paul was in surgery for 14 hours that day. It’s been two years now, and he’s healthy and can do regular things again.” 

Heart-Breaking News

Paul started battling heart issues in 2010, but his cryptic symptoms made it difficult to diagnose. Stephanie was pregnant at the time with their daughter, and they had joked that Paul was having sympathy pains because he was tired and suddenly developed a pot belly. It turned out, he had the much more serious problem of retaining fluid in his stomach. A series of heart pumping devices were installed, but listing Paul for an emergency heart transplant seemed the last option.

“We’d gotten a call in January 2017 that a heart was available, and we were so excited,” Stephanie said. “But after getting ready for the surgery, the heart failed, so that was pretty heart-breaking. We felt a little more cautious going into that Feb 16th surgery.” 

Heart “Attack!”

Despite a few complications, Paul received excellent care at Integris Advanced Cardiac Care and was able to return home after two months. Stephanie welcomed him with an array of heart decorations. “I ‘heart- attacked’ the yard and house,” she said. “I put out a big yard sign that read, ‘Glad you had a change of heart.’”

Thanks to Paul’s new heart, his daughter is experiencing life with her dad in a new way. From the time she was born, she’d spent every birthday visiting him at the hospital. They’d never been able to go on vacation for fear of complications with his heart machine, and he was too out of breath to spend much time playing with her outdoors.

“This summer, he was able to take her to visit family in California. He’s fishing again. He went swimming with her for the first time,” Stephanie said. “He was able to get in the water and baptize our daughter at church. We just love it that he’s able to do normal things again.” 

Share Your Heart

None of these improvements could have happened without the generosity of an organ donor and without the medical care provided by Integris Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute and Advanced Cardiac Care. The Amarals are eternally grateful. “It’s hard to know what to say to the family that lost a loved one who made your continued life possible. That loving heart now lives in Paul,” Stephanie said. “I hope more people will check that little organ donor box on their driver’s license. You don’t need those parts anymore when you die—but someone does.” 

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