Stand on the Grand for Organ Donation
“He got a heart! Greg got a heart!”
Sarah had just checked her work voice mail after returning from climbing the Grand Teton in Wyoming the previous day. Greg had been waiting for a heart for almost four months while being kept alive by a total artificial heart. The timing of this news, although happy when ever it comes, could not have been more inspiring.
Sarah and I been asked to join a team of cardiac nurses to climb the Grand Teton in an effort to raise awareness for organ donation. The team would accompany Kelly Perkins, a heart transplant recipient and avid mountain climber. The purpose of the climb was to inspire others to live healthy lifestyles, to reach their goals and to raise awareness about organ donation. I was asked to document this accomplishment with photo and video, as Kelly is the first heart transplant recipient to summit the Grand. What is even more incredible is that Kelly and her husband, Craig, were completing the entire Grand Traverse, which includes climbing not only the Grand Teton, but the six other peaks immediately surrounding it.
Sarah and I met Kelly on Thursday evening at the lower saddle of the Grand, where we would stay for the night at over 11,000 feet. Sarah had brought a photo with her that included the transplant and artificial heart teams at Intermountain Medical Center along with many patients who were waiting for a heart. It was very inspiring to tell Kelly about these individuals — those for whom we were climbing. One of the patients in the photo was Greg, who had been waiting for a heart for almost 4 months. Greg was so sick, he had to stay in the hospital supported by a machine: a Total Artificial Heart. We had been hoping and praying for Greg’s heart for so long. It could have come any day and seemed long overdue.
By miraculous coincidence (is there really such a thing?), Greg got his heart that evening. We don’t know the exact times, but about when we were sitting at the lower saddle with Kelly and Craig, Cardiologists at Intermountain Medical Center received the call. There was a heart for Greg. We just can’t get over the timing.
We feel very fortunate to have shared this climb with Kelly, Craig, the cardiac rehab nurses from Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (Tiffany, Heidi, Chelsea, Mary, Chris) and Marion, a cardiac nurse from Utah Valley Hospital and Heidi’s daughter; and of course the guides from Exum: special thanks to Rod, Eric, Tim, Ben and Kevin.
~Nate and Sarah