Jeremy Carr had warned the doctors and the nurses: He isn’t a morning person.
If at all possible, could they — for a 38-year-old guy waiting on a heart — not bother him early in the day?
The medical team knew that. They had come to know Carr pretty well, like family almost. After all, he’d been at IU Health Methodist Hospital nearly 200 days.
So, it took Carr a bit by surprise on March 29 when a team came into his room at 8:30 a.m.
“They don’t do that for no apparent reason,” he says.
And then the reason became abundantly clear. And, within minutes, Carr’s life changed forever.
We found a heart. One has become available. It’s a really good match — 98 percent – a low-risk donor. We are waiting on a test result to come back sometime this morning and, if it’s good, it will be a go.
The rest of that day was a blur for Carr. Five fours of waiting, worrying, contemplating. Five hours of not believing that this moment could finally be here.
And then around 1:30 p.m., the team was back. The heart was a 100 percent match.
CALMING THE FEAR
In the wee hours of that night, Carr was being wheeled back to the operating room to get his new heart.
It was a transplant that had been nearly six years in the making. It was 2012 when Carr went to an all-you-can-eat buffet and started feeling short of breath. He thought he’d just overeaten.
Doctors discovered something much more devastating. Carr was in heart failure and his heart was working at just 8 percent.
He received an LVAD, a left ventricular assist device, used in patients with advanced heart failure whose heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body.
Carr went back to work and opened a business, C&J Automotive in Indianapolis. But, by September of 2017, his health took a turn for the worse.
Getting on the transplant list was his only option and he needed to be hospitalized until he could get it.
Nearly 200 days passed. To keep busy, Carr built model cars at Methodist and became a local celebrity, of sorts. (Read that story: https://bit.ly/2JGMFbY).
All the while, he waited. And waited. And then the doctors appeared that early March morning. And 12 hours later, it was time for surgery.
“I was definitely scared, but I felt comfort going back there because I was well aware of what was going on and I knew what I was facing,” says Carr, of Avon. “When I got in and I saw Dr. (Thomas) Wozniak, I felt a personal comfort with him. He just looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to be just fine.’”
And Carr was.
A NEW LIFE
This week, nearly two weeks past his transplant, Carr talked about his appreciation for his donor and that person’s family. He talked about how his gratefulness is immeasurable.
“I get to be a father. I get to be an uncle. I get to be all the things I enjoy doing because of that donor,” Carr says.
And so, he’s pushing himself hard. And he’s preparing for a healthy lifestyle ahead.
“Getting this transplant, it makes you really open your eyes and think, ‘OK, what can I do to carry on this heart that was given to me?’” he says.
It’s, literally, another chance at life, Carr says.
Already, he is feeling better. Things are different. Before surgery, his body felt dull to the touch. Because of lack of blood flow, his skin color was off. He had loss of feeling in his feet and ankles.
“But now I can feel everything,” he says, “some of it good, some of it bad.”
His skin color is turning a healthy tone again. His vital sign numbers are perfect.
“I’ve got blood pressure and things just like a healthy person,” Carr says. “That makes me feel good.”
And it makes him look forward to the future. Carr is expected to be released from Methodist either Monday or Tuesday.
“I just keep telling myself the next stop is home,” he says. “It’s just time for me to go home.”
Carr isn’t going to forget any of what he’s been through. In fact, he has big plans to give back.
He loves drag racing, any kind of racing. Carr plans to build a car that he takes to races with messages on the side: organ donation, heart health, transplant awareness.
He wants to do the same thing with model cars at national and local show. After all, every donor has the potential to save five lives.
Even one person deciding to become a donor would be worth it, Carr says. “Every donor, in my eyes, is a hero.”
— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health. Reach Benbow via email email@example.com or on Twitter @danabenbow.