Steve Foster recently celebrated his 26th anniversary of getting his heart transplant. He counts his blessings daily that he even made it to the transplant surgery.
“I started having problems that showed up later in life,” he said. “First, I was feeling out of breath after a run. And I thought maybe I overworked myself. Then after I retired in 1988, I started having chest pains and chalked it up to indigestion. I was told by my doctors that I had had several silent heart attacks that really messed up my heart.”
In January 1991, Foster had open heart surgery for seven bypasses, which didn’t help that much. So by May 1992, he had his second open heart surgery to put in a defibrillator, which allowed him to live for another four years. He was placed on the transplant list on April 10, 1996 and got his new heart on Nov. 5, 1996.
“I came out of my surgery feeling like I had just been reborn,” he said. “I walked every day, around the transplant unit and then when I got home, I walked even further. I did a lot of exercising because I had a good heart to deal with it.”
Foster says the transplant turned his entire life around. “I would have never seen 55, I’m sure of that,” he added. “It really was the greatest feeling to be able to get out and do the things I couldn’t do before the transplant.”
In 1963, February was designated American Heart Month by the American Heart Association, to urge Americans to join the battle against heart disease.
Why does American Heart Month matter? Consider this: one in four deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease. And recent research shows that many people lack education about cardiovascular conditions and the warning signs.
Therefore, American Heart Month serves as an important resource to close the gap and address the lack of awareness and encourage people to seek out ways to keep their hearts healthy.
Foster got to the point where his only option was a life-saving gift from a generous donor. “I’ve got three grandkids and I’m quite confident that had it not been for the transplant, I wouldn’t have seen any of them,” he said.
Foster wrote an anonymous letter to his donor family through Legacy of Hope. It took four years for him to hear back from his donor family but now he says they talk all the time. “In May 2000, we met at the transplant picnic and spent the day together and got to know each other and we’ve been like family ever since.”
And Foster says he would encourage everyone to sign up to become a donor to potentially leave a legacy of generosity. “If you’re able to donate, why not save the life of someone? There’s no greater gift you can give somebody than to donate,” he said.
Now that he’s been given a new lease on life, Foster says he does everything possible to stay as healthy as he can and appreciate the new life he’s been given. “I thank my donor every day for giving me this gift and I thank the Lord for keeping me around for that time,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful 26 years.”