Lemuel, Heart Recipient
Growing up, Lemuel was always the big, healthy kid...one who loved playing sports. But all that changed in what seemed like an instant. In April of 1998, at 28 years old, Lemuel and his fiancé flew to Washington, D.C. in what he expected would be a relaxing vacation. While there he began to come down with symptoms of a cold which doctors diagnosed as bronchitis and prescribed antibiotics. Lemuel quickly recovered but little did he know the virus had damaged his heart.
A short two months later, Lemuel began suffering from headaches and stomach pains brought upon what doctors thought was stress; however an emergency room visit discovered the real culprit: Lemuel's heart was three times the normal size and was pumping only at 10 percent normal capacity; he would die if he did not receive a heart transplant.
In disbelief, Lemuel tried to improve his health but soon was back in the hospital. "I landed back in the ICU with a fatal diagnosis," said Lemuel. "I was told I had about two days to live unless a donor heart was found."
On October 23, 1999, Lemuel received a new heart from a selfless man and his family who realized that in death, life could be given. "It is because of this man and his family that I was able to make my fiancé my wife and raise three children," said Lemuel.
After exchanging letters, Lemuel had the opportunity to meet his donor family, and their first meeting was bittersweet. "An elderly lady approached me and said, 'I know who you are,' I responded, 'I know who you are too, you are my donor's mother.'
She said, 'Yes I am, may I ask you a favor? Can I put my ear to your chest?' I quickly realized this sweet woman just wanted to hear her son's heartbeat," recalled Lemuel.
The memory of him holding her is etched in his mind forever and motivates Lemuel to continue his mission each day to raise awareness for organ donation in honor of his donor and their family.