God bless you.
This Christmas, we celebrated the birthday of Jesus Christ by giving money
to the church, to charities and individuals, by decorating a record three Christmas
trees in our home with thousands of light, including 1,000 LED white and blue
lights alone on the largest tree in the family room and a gaggle of presents under
the tree to exchange between our children and their children.
We sang and prayed before the kids opened their gifts. But by that time, my
wife Joyce and I knew that the most precious physical present we all, including
you, were hoping I'd receive was neither under the my figurative tree. There was
no new heart for me under my Christmas tree. So, I'll just keep on waiting and
On Nov. 16, after I had been elevated to No. 1 on the Mayo Clinic's heart
transplant list for B-positive blood types with big chests, I was told the chances
were around 70 percent that I would get a new heart by the end of the year.
After all, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where I am being treated,
had been averaging two heart transplant operations a month this year. So I felt
the numbers were in my favor to get a new heart sooner than later.
Unfortunately, the Mayo had limited my No. 1 status in the 1-A group to 30
days for two reasons. First, their policy guaranteed me that because my heart
was being sustained by a heart pump, technically described as a Heartmate II
Left-Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD). Second, the Mayo rotates that 1-A status
between other LVAD patients suffering end-stage congestion heart failure just as
Although I badly need a new heart because it is my best chance for
long-term survival since my heart would be pumping at roughly 10 percent
efficiency without the pump, I am not in as dire straits as other patients with
"If you were in worse health, you would remain at the top of the 1-A list," Jody
Hanson, the nurse case manager representing the cardiac surgeons and
cardiologists treating me in Rochester, "But you have been responding to the
pump exceptionally well. You are in much better shape than most LVAD patients
who are suffering end-stage congestive heart failure. So we have returned you
to the 1-B status where there is only one patient ahead of you."
In other words, in the last couple of weeks, I was dropped from being first
among those classified 1-A to second among those classified 1-B because that
other 1-B patient has been on the list longer.
"If your condition were to worsen, say, because of a pump malfunction,
your situation would be more urgent and you would be returned to the top of the
list," Hanson said.
But, until my condition worsens, other heart patients in worst shape with get
the 1-A classification. But when the next two hearts for B-positive blood types
become available, and there is no similar patient classified 1-A, then those hearts
will go to my current cardiac colleague and me.
Yes, I'm disappointed. When I was first placed on the Mayo Clinic's heart
transplant list on Nov. 15, 2009, I was told I should be getting a new heart within
months because of my rarer blood type. Unfortunately, I suffered a cadio-genic
on Jan. 11 that resulted in me spending 30 straight days in three different hospitals.
When I underwent open-heart surgery on Jan. 20 to have the heart pump
implanted to save my life, that assured me of not being eligible for another
open-heart surgery until I had spent three more months recovering from the
Obviously, My chances of receiving a new heart are still high since, as
of Christmas, there was only on patient ahead of me.
Joyce and I recently spent two weeks in Rochester, Minn., so that if a heart became
available I would be easily accessible. It was a boring stay plagued by a 17-inch
snowfall that resulted in me being stuck in the snow twice while going out to get some
food. But the most enjoyable part of a stay was my opportunity to sing Christmas
carols and other songs in the Mayo Clinic's giant atrium at the subway level. Jane Belau
was my pianist. She plays there every Monday and Thursday as part of her many
community service activities. I also joined some regulars who are Mayo employees, who
love to sing and who normally joins Belau to contribute beautiful music that also makes
for powerful medicine for all of us who are there, from all over the world, to receive
treatment for our assorted health challenges.
It would have been nice to celebrate Christmas with a new heart, which
is what we prayed for. But I'm still having a merry Christmas. Once again, my baby
daughter, Natasha Banks, flew up from Atlanta; My middle daughter Noelle came
over with her son. Caleb. And my oldest daughter, Nicole Chapman, came over
with her husband, Larry, and their children Lauren, David, Timothy and Nina.
We had a beautiful time celebrating during the day. Then at night, Joyce,
Natasha and I watched "It's A Wonderful Life," together, because that's my
favorite Christmas movie and because Natasha said she had never really seen
I warned Joyce and Natasha beforehand that I would cry at least four or
five times and to not make fun of me. Really. I've seen that movie maybe 100
times now, in black-and-white and in color, and I can't help but cry at the peak
scenes of sadness and gladness. Since no other movie moves me so deeply so
consistently, I guess I'd have to call "It's A Wonderful Life" my favorite movie of
Oh, I love "Gone With The Wind," "The 10 Commandments," "The
Greatest Story Ever Told," "Star Wars," "The Godfather," "Bladerunner,"
"Gadiator," "Raiders of the Lost Art," "Schindler's List," "Les Uns Et Les Autres,"
"Scarface," "Casablanca," "Lost Horizon" and so many, many more. But "It's
A Wonderful Life" is my favorite. And when I think of my life, my ups and downs,
on the whole, I can't complaint. Mine is not a perfect life, neither the worst nor
the best. But, thank God, it is a wonderful life.
God bless you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.