Thursday, May 30, 2013

carrying a legacy, making a legacy

Dear Donor Family,
My name is {Gatekeeper} and I received your loved one’s heart. The most important thing I want to tell you is that I am so grateful to you! There are no other words to express my gratitude other than Thank You!  I have thought about what to say over and over, and I want to say the right things but I’m not sure what those words are. In your time of grief you made a decision that saved my life. I would not be alive if it were not for you. I know very little about your loved one, but I would love to know much more! What I do know is that he must have been an incredible person. The fact that you have allowed him to live on inside of me is a testament to how much he was loved by you. 

There are so many thing I would like to tell all of you, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. I do want you to know that I was sick for a very long time, and I do not take for granted a healthy heart! When I was 14 I was diagnosed with a rare cancer so I began chemotherapy treatments. I did that for two years. At the age of 16 I had my first heart failure which is attributed to the chemotherapy. Over the next 16 years I got married, had a son and was in and out of heart failure many times. Unfortunately our marriage didn't continue, but my son’s father is a good man. I had two open -heart surgeries to replace my tricuspid valve and received a pacemaker in 2007. I was in heart failure again late 2009. After having kidney failure and not seeing improvement in my heart, I was sent for transplant evaluation. During this time I was engaged to a wonderful man and, although I was very sick, we were planning our wedding for May 15, 2010. My doctors admitted me to the hospital on April 29, 2010 so we cancelled our wedding. They told me that I would have to stay in the hospital until I received a new heart. Of course that day would be May 28, 2010. In the midst of your grief you gave me new life and all of our lives changed. Matt and I were able to marry on October 16, 2010 because of the gift you have given me! My son Zach walked me down the aisle. I have included pictures of our wedding day so that you can see what you have given us. Your decision has blessed not only me but everyone in my life. The words “thank you” just aren't enough. 

I have no idea what you all have been through or how you feel now. My hope is that sharing how you have changed my life and my family’s life in the most incredible way will be a good thing for your family. You all are on our minds every day. We look at our lives and know that it would cease to exist without you. We are connected in such a wonderfully amazing yet terribly sad and complicated way. I would like to know more about all of you. I think about your loved one and wonder what he was like and who he was. I know that he is loved and please know that we love him, too! I hope to meet you and hope that you want that as well. 

In closing, I would like to share one more thing with you. My second valve replacement was a mechanical valve. I could hear it ticking. At night I think of you and your loved one and my heart is quiet. Than you for my quiet, strong heart!!
Sincerely and with respect,

This is a letter from the strong, humble, caring, full of life woman who received Grimes' heart.

And a few more thoughts from the Gatekeeper

I have been given two rare gifts: a life-saving heart transplant and a relationship with the family of the person who saved my life. It is so rare to even receive a letter from your donor family much less to meet them. It’s unheard of and such an honor. To be able to thank the people who saved your life is more than any recipient could dream of. I now know so much about Dave, his accomplishments, his favorite things, funny stories and so much more. His parents, Ben and Shirley, have been generous in sharing so much with us. Knowing, not only do I have a good heart beating inside of me, but I have a healthy heart that was taken care of by a very strong man means so much. It has truly changed the way I view my abilities. I know I can push myself harder because I know how active Dave was. This knowledge has changed my life!
Now that we are coming upon the 3rd anniversary of his passing, my feelings are much more complicated this year. It is always a time of mixed emotions, but now I have a name and a face to put to the heart beating inside me. Thinking back to living in the hospital waiting for my heart back then and now knowing that he wasn't doing well and would soon pass away is quite emotional. It's so difficult to say "Thank You" and "I'm Sorry" in the same breath. Since meeting Dave’s family almost exactly 1 year ago I've said those words a lot. I'm SO thankful to know them, but I feel sadness in a different way than I have experienced in the past years. My heart goes out to everyone that misses and loves Dave, and I know there are many of you. Words cannot express the depth of my gratitude, and it is only matched by the depth of my sorrow. Please know that every day we think of Dave and his family. We are so thankful he made the decision to become a donor, and even more so, we have the utmost respect for his family who in the time of their sorrow made the difficult decision that ultimately saved my life.

 She is able to carry on his legacy while she paves the way for her own.

Thank you everyone who provided memories and thoughts to the posts this week honoring a legacy that continues to grow through continued life.


  1. Oh my gosh. This gave me chills. What a beautiful gift that he gave to her. Amazing.


  2. Wow...if that didn't move you as a human being, I sure don't know what could. There are no words for this...truly inspiring.