When I was a young nurse on the day shift, one of my patients, who I’ll call Joe, was awaiting a heart transplant. His heart had been damaged by amyloidosis. Joe and I got very close and talked about everything — family, friends, politics, money, dreams, hopes, and holiday traditions.
I loved to cook and bake during the holidays, while one of Joe’s favorite Thanksgiving traditions was to drink hot chocolate with his family in front of his fireplace in North Carolina.
Joe had been in the hospital for several months waiting for a heart, and he was getting weaker by the day. He would pass out almost every time he stood up.
One day as he was lying on a stretcher waiting for an X-ray, he said to me, “My doctor told me if I don’t get a heart soon, I will get so weak that I will not be able to lift my head off the pillow.” He looked at me as if he had already gotten to that point.
Joe and I just stared at each other as tears ran down both of our faces.
The next day, I got a call from the heart transplant team telling me that they may have a heart for Joe! I was given orders for prepping him in case the heart was a good match.
Several hours later, the heart transplant team called again to give me the news I longed to hear: The heart was good, the transplant was a go, and I needed to tell Joe!
It was an honor for me to be the one to give him the news. There was so much excitement and even more tears — but this time happy ones. Joe made it through the surgery. He was hospitalized for several weeks but eventually was able to go home. Until he left, I visited him every day.
That Thanksgiving, Joe called me at work to tell me he was drinking hot chocolate in front of his fireplace! That was one of the highlights of my career.
Joe and his wife gave me a sweet gift — a Santa cookie plate for putting homemade cookies out for Santa. We aren’t allowed to accept gifts, so I had to get it approved through our compliance department before I could accept it! I still pull out the plate every year.
Around a year and a half after the transplant, Joe unfortunately collapsed and passed away. I was devastated. However, a call with his wife made me feel a bit better. She told me that because of the transplant, Joe was able to live another year and a half with his family, and they were immensely grateful for that.
Revisiting this story makes me cry all over again. Joe and his family left a beautiful imprint on me, and for that, I’m truly thankful.