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Dick Kelly’s Story

It was Christmas 2010. But it was no ordinary Christmas. I had been coping with Congestive Heart Failure for about five years and had a Pacemaker/Defibrillator to help regulate my heart. But in the summer of 2010 my  Cardiologist said my heart was getting worse and I need to talk to someone about a possible transplant. I was very skeptical but agreed to go to Minneapolis for a consultation. My wonderful wife and I drove up expecting to stay about three days. After about forty-five minutes with a Transplant Cardiologist I was put in the hospital and a few days later on August 3rd I received a LVAD, basically an internal pump to do what the heart couldn’t do. Since the last surgery I had was 50 years earlier for tonsils, open heart surgery was a really big deal. I was put on the One A list for thirty days in December and I really thought I would get the call to get to Minneapolis ASAP to receive a new heart. But alas, none became available for and shortly after the first of the year I dropped down to the B list and took my place behind several other people waiting for a life-saving donor heart. It was a long year and I met several other people who were on the list. I was able to go back to my work as a part-time County Commissioner because of the LVAD with which I was developing a Love-Hate relationship. I was always plugged into something, either heavy batteries or the wall outlet 24/7. I began to think I may be on this for the rest of my life and that was not a comforting thing to me. But I had no options other than making arrangements with my friendly funeral director. I made several trips to Minneapolis and took a ton of pills, something very foreign to me. In June my doctor didn’t like what she was seeing and requested the heart panel put me back on the A list. After several anxious weeks, at 2:30 AM I received the call that a heart was available and I had 2 hours to get to the hospital which was 240 miles away. They had arranged for an air ambulance to transport me and my wife and I arrived at the hospital at 4:30 AM. Pretty good time I’d say, but I didn’t want to lose the opportunity. The 11 hour surgery went well and I was up and around in 24 hours. I was able to return to Sioux Falls a week and 1/2 later and was back to work in 3 weeks. My recovery has gone extremely well and I have energy I haven’t had for several years. I think of my wonderful donor every day and know that now that I have been given a second chance at life, I have a responsibility to give back by encouraging people to become donors and speaking to groups about it. I could never have been able to get through the past year without the wonderful and devoted help  and support from my wife, Mary, and my sons and daughter. I am so thankful for all the prayers and for the gift that God has given me. I pray that my donor has a special place in Heaven for her selfless  act . Miracles do happen and I am living proof. I could go on for pages about the doctors, the nurses, the friends and the family but I can only say Thank You to all of them. If you are reading this and you are not a donor, go sign up today. Your legacy will be that you gave The Gift of Life. God Bless You All. Dick Kelly


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