Matt's Heart Recipient
My name is Tom Meeks and I am 71 years young. I am married to my beautiful wife Ann and we have been married 48 years. We have two sons, Tom and Michael. Michael died in 1990 when he was 21 years old. Tom is in the medical profession, married to Emily and has four beautiful children; two boys and two girls. It was Matt's wonderful gift to me that enabled me to continue to love and cherish them and to watch my grandchildren grow and become adults.
I joined the Army and left Florida when I turned 18 years old and retired after 20 years. Following retirement, I went to work for the Department of Defense where I worked for another 20 plus years. I totally retired in 2005 and my wife and I have enjoyed traveling and exploring this great country we live in.
In April 2011 I was diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis by the cardiologist after being rushed to the emergency room for congestive heart failure. After discharge I was referred to the University of Washington for additional medical help because the regional medical expert on Amyloidosis was there. It was there that I was told that I was a candidate for heart transplant. I was ultimately turned down five times for transplant from various hospitals on the west coast before coming to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. There I was evaluated and put on the transplant list in November 2013. We moved into the Gift of Life transplant house mid-December 2013 and waited until March 2014 before I received the call to come to St Mary's Hospital. A heart had been located that matched my requirement. The operation was done early morning hours of March 20th 2014, five days before my 71st birthday. Post operation went very well for me and I started down the road to recovery. I was discharged from the Mayo Clinic in June 2014 and we returned to Washington State and home. My progress is going very well since returning home. All my doctors and medical support staff are very pleased with my progress. I will return to the Mayo Clinic in March 2015 for my annual checkup.
In November of 2014, Ann and I finally got to meet the Heisler family Jared, Cheryl and Casey. We met during one of my visits back to the Mayo Clinic for a checkup. What a wonderful experience. I knew immediately they were so very proud of Matt and the decision he made to donate his organs. They have opened their arms and hearts to us and we in turn feel very comfortable with them. We plan another visit back in June to participate in the fund raising golf tournament they have sponsored in Matt's name. The event will raise money for local scholarships and promote organ donation in Minnesota.
Anyone that reads this, please take the time to check into organ donation programs and see the benefits and rewards that come from donating organs. Hopefully a decision to donate your organs will come from that. Matt's decision benefited 60 people that now continue to live and enjoy a better and healthier life. I am one of those very fortunate people and I can't thank him enough.
The photo above is located at www.centaursinvietnam.org a web site developed to locate the units combat warriors and gather, record & provide a presentation of the history of the Centaur unit in Vietnam. Matt has been honored on the site and a link established to the KARE11 story of Matt’s donation and our meeting.