"In the spring of 1998, I was on a flight from Portland, Oregon to Anchorage, Alaska with two kids behind me who sneezed all the way. As a result, I caught the flu - the type that takes everything out of you. Having a low resistance, the virus got into my heart and started to weaken it. This continued until July when I asked my cardiologist if I would get any better. He informed me that I would not, and that it was time to get a new heart. I asked him what the procedure was, and he set me up with a September 23 appointment at the Stanford Medical Center-the earliest time I could get.

By September my heart had a 55 percent output and I had to be put on a special battery pack IV drug that gave my heart an extra boost (sort of like nitro in the gas tank). When I checked into the Stanford Medical Center transplant clinic, the chief physician could not believe I had survived the flight. He told me I was the most frail, fragile person who had ever walked into his office. This meant I was too weak to go through an operation, much less even considered for a heart transplant.

Well, I set up house in a room in the cardiac unit to get stronger. After a week, I had improved so much the committee considered me for a transplant and put me on the 1A list. This meant I was kept in the hospital until the first match was available.

Two months went by and still I waited for the right heart. With a common blood type and body size (the two main points for a match), I was still there. November 24 was my birthday and I thought I might get a great present. I also had an afterthought - that it would be nice to be 56 years old and have a heart half my age!

November 24 arrived and all the nurses and doctors kept coming into my room to wish me a Happy Birthday. The festivities lasted until dinner when a nurse came and took my meal away. I told her she knows better as I tended to get a little cranky if I don't get something to eat! She happily told me I had another present as they were informed of a heart that was a match.

The transplant operation only took 2.5 hours and all went well. I woke up on Thanksgiving Day with a great deal to be thankful. My greatest thanks go out to the family of the donor for the gift of life. This 28-year-old donor also gave this gift to others in the forms of other needed organs.

I hope all of you would make this choice, and you need to discuss it with your family so they will honor your request. For more information in Anchorage, contact Life Alaska. Their phone number is (907) 562-5433 and toll-free (800) 719-5433."