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Life Stories: Having the Heart to Survive Years of Waiting

Donald and Kathy Wong Donald and Kathy Wong

Heart Recipient, Donation Advocates: Poughkeepsie, NY

On July 31, 2006, Donald Wong and his wife Kathy celebrated the tenth anniversary of Donald’s heart transplant. The celebration also happened to coincide with National Minority Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Day on August 1.

It had been a long trip to transplantation, beginning back in 1985, when Donald went to the doctor for his annual checkup. It was then that he was diagnosed with a heart disease called cardiomyopathy, and physicians began to monitor his heart deterioration.

Over the next few years, Donald and his physicians tried to manage his heart disease with medications, then a pacemaker, and finally through participating in a study of a new device called a left ventricular assist device (LVAD)—all while he waited for a heart transplant.

In 1996, after living at the hospital for five months with his device attached to a console, Donald learned that a heart might be available for him. He immediately called Kathy, but before she could reach the hospital, Donald was in the operating room receiving his new heart. “When I woke up,” Donald says, “the swishing sound of the LVAD was gone. In its place was a rapid heart beat.”

“There is no way that I can express my appreciation and gratitude for the donor heart that gave me a second chance. Now I educate others about donation. I wasn’t given the ‘Gift of Life’ to live in a glass house.”

— Donald Wong

“There is no way that I can express my appreciation and gratitude for the donor heart which gave me a second chance, the ‘Gift of Life’,” he says. “Since then, Kathy and I have seen our four grandchildren whom I would have completely missed. We have traveled to Canada, Norway and China.”

The Chinese-American couple have also devoted themselves to educating the public about the need for organ and tissue donors. They volunteer for the New York Organ Donor Network, and work actively at many events. Donald knows he has to be careful, but adds, “I wasn’t given the ‘Gift of Life’ to live in a glass house.”

Donald and Kathy’s story is courtesy of New York Organ Donor Network, New York, NY.


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