It Takes Heart to be an Organ Donor

April 4, 2017
Patrick Taylor with his family

by Cindy Wolff, Social Media Volunteer

Photo: Patrick Taylor with his family, (left to right) his daughter, Charlotte, his wife Robin and youngest daughter, Mary Michael.

Last year, Patrick Taylor didn’t run in the National Foundation for Transplants 5K, a reason that was anything but typical.  Seven weeks prior to the race, Taylor received a heart transplant.

He’ll be back at this year’s 5k stronger and better. He believes his attendance is vital.  He’s got a good heart; literally. And that’s something he wants people to understand. It was the kindheartedness of an organ donor that gave him back his life.

“I’m an advocate for organ donation,” Taylor said. “People need to see how simple it is to sign up to become an organ donor. That single act can save so many lives. It’s a way to help your fellow man. What better way than saving then giving them back their lives.”

In 2006, Taylor was 23 years old and on a dinner date. His heart began to race. Not the speed it did when he was with his girlfriend, Robin, who later became his wife, but a pace that was frightening. They went to the emergency room where doctors found his heart racing at 210 beats per minute. (The average heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute.)

His heart was stabilized in the emergency room, Taylor underwent a battery of tests in the intensive care unit, where he stayed for a week. The tests ultimately showed he had idiopathic cardiomyopathy, a virus in his heart with no discernable cause.

His pacemaker was implanted, and he was put on medicine to manage the condition. That lasted for 10 years. In 2016, his wife was a resident working more than 100 hours a week. Taylor worked full-time at Methodist Hospital managing a cardiology and cardiovascular group practice. And the couple was raising their two daughters, Charlotte, who is now five years old, and Mary Michael who is 22 months old.

In late 2015, Taylor’s energy level began to plummet. His health began to degenerate. He could barely breathe. He woke up each morning ready to go back to bad. He tried to manage a semblance of normalcy for his girls. He took them to the zoo, played with them and tucked them in at night, but it was getting harder.

A cardiac evaluation in early 2015 showed he was in need of a transplant. He was a good candidate, healthy, athletic and young. He decided to have his surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which is ranked No. 2 in the nation regarding the number of heart transplants.

He was put on the waiting list and admitted to the hospital on Feb. 4. Six days later he received a heart.

“When I opened my eyes after surgery, the colors were brighter,” Taylor said. “Everything was brighter. When I was sick, everything was in a haze, because I didn’t have oxygenated blood. I could breathe, I had energy.”

Two months later, he was back at work. It wasn’t too much longer when he could be back to exercising, running six to 12 miles a week.

Life is sweeter now. He doesn’t get angry now about the little things. He no longer gets angry at rude drivers. Being a blessing to other people is. He helps older adults who are having trouble walking or doing other things. He gently reminds individuals who get exasperated when an old person is walking in front of them at the store that they too will be old one day.

Taylor also realized he needed to share this blessing and become a vocal advocate for organ donation. In addition to attending events like NFT’s Lights for Life Neon 5K, to talk about his life, Taylor hopes to take his message to high school students.

“I wasn’t much older than seniors in high school when this happened to me,” Taylor said. “When you are that young you don’t think about things like signing up to donate your organs. I want to change that. It’s so simple; you can sign the back of your driver’s license, do it on your iPhone. There are so many ways. It’s a way to give back to your fellow man.”

He hopes a procurement station will open one day at Regional One Health’s trauma unit.

“It’s the level one trauma center for the mid-south,” Taylor said. “So many people who come to the hospital don’t think about donating organs. I hope that will change.”