Speaking by phone from a Dallas hospital Tuesday, Ramon Cardenas of Brownwood said it’s hard to explain his feelings after getting getting a new heart last week.
“It’s a miracle,” Cardenas said. “It’s an unbelievable thing.”
Cardenas, 56, said he expects to be released today from Medical City Hospital, where he underwent a heart transplant Jan. 22.
“I am doing great,” said Cardenas, who is the operations manager for TXU Electric in Brownwood. “If you saw me, you would never believe it.”
He said he was up and walking the day after his transplant, and hasn’t even needed pain medication.
“He’s doing awesome,” said Darinka Savor, a nurse with Medical City’s transplant team.
Cardenas said he’d been doing well for the six months before the transplant with a heart pump called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).
Despite the benefits from that device, Cardenas said, he is “100 percent better” with his new heart. Cardenas relied on the LVAD to assist his failing heart until he could have a heart transplant.
Doctors had inserted the LVAD into Cardenas in July after determining his heart’s left ventricle was barely working. The LVAD was intended to keep him healthy until he could get a heart transplant.
At 3 a.m. on Jan. 22, a Monday, Savor called Cardenas and told him he needed to get to the hospital.
“She just called me and said ‘we’ve got a heart for you,’” Cardenas said. “I didn’t want to believe it.”
As his wife, Elva, said earlier, Cardenas said he felt saddened because he knew “it cost somebody something” for him to have a knew heart. “I was happy for my family but at the same time I had that regret for someone else.”
Cardenas said the transplant team has encouraged him to understand that the gift he received was what the donor’s family had wanted. That’s helped, he said.
Savor said it’s normal for heart recipients and their families to feel “extreme sadness” that “someone has to die in order for me to get an organ.”
“The (donor’s) death was not preventable,” Savor said. “We ultimately do not choose life and death.”
She said the transplant team tries to help the recipients and their families understand that the donor family’s gift is “a way for the family to grieve and make some sense out of that death.”
Cardenas said the hospital will disclose the donor family’s identity to him in about six months.
For now, he knows nothing about the donor.
He said if he could send a message to the donor’s family, it would be “my sincere thanks for giving me hope and giving my new family a new way of life.”
Cardenas also said, “Now I know why I love Brownwood as much as I do — the support, the concern, the courtesy that was given to me and my family.”