Transplant Team of Connecticut

For Better or Worse a True Life Story

By Tracy Yish

For better, for worse, in sickness and in health……these words were part of the marriage vows my husband Dave and I made to each other 19 years ago. Sounded good to me….we were young, healthy and had a lifetime ahead of us. Things were wonderful for the first several years.  We bought a house, started a family, became involved in our community…..then, 7 years ago Dave became sick.  His heart wasn’t working right. After many hospitalizations, a few pacemakers and a defibrillator, he seemed to get better – for a while. But in 2006 we had to face reality – his heart was failing and he needed to get a transplant.

During our journey of waiting for a transplant, Dave was at times so weak and so ill that he literally could not do anything at all to help out with the kids, the housework, the yard work, or anything else. It took all that he had just to get himself to his job and work, then come home and eat dinner – sometimes he couldn’t even eat with the kids and I because he was so tired he had to just go lie down. He wanted to help out with things, but he became winded so quickly and even walking a short distance would tire him out.

            Talk about a difficult time to live through. My husband was becoming more ill and weak by the day.  I was taking care of all of the needs of our two children, taking care of the house, the yard, the laundry, the groceries, the cooking and cleaning, bringing him to his doctor’s appointments, AND working a full time job. There were some nights when he couldn’t sleep at all because he felt as though he couldn’t breathe if he laid down, so I would stay up and rub his back and talk to him. Those nights seemed endless.

When it got to the point where the doctors wouldn’t release Dave from the hospital until a donor heart became available for him, my role became even more difficult. He was in Hartford Hospital, which is about an hour drive from our home. I would drive up to visit with him after work, and try to leave by 7:30 or 8:00 so that I could get home in time to spend time with our kids, who were 12 and 9 at the time. Of course, this played with my emotions – I felt terrible leaving Dave at the hospital, but yet as a mother, I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to be with my children. The emotions were overwhelming. Sometimes I would cry all the way home from Hartford.

Fortunately, my parents helped us by taking care of the kids, feeding them, making sure their homework was done, etc., but it wasn’t the same as them having their parents with them.  They would see me in the morning before school, and then only for a short while at night before going to bed, and they would only be able to see Dave on the weekends. Sometimes they would ask me “Is Daddy going to die?”  I would dig deep and find the strength to be able to answer them with a firm “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but let’s keep praying. ”

As physically and emotionally drained as I felt, I did my very best to keep a positive attitude.  I had my faith to keep me going, and I truly just did what needed to be done – there was no other option available to me.  I didn’t think twice about it.

            Then – out of the blue, on April 4, 2007 – Dave underwent his heart transplant.  I wish I could say all went well from the beginning, but that would be a lie.  He had many complications.  But a month later, on May 4th, I brought him home!   Of course there were several months of recuperation – his body had been so sick for so long before the transplant. But little by little, I got my husband back, and our children got their father back.  This was only possible because of the very unselfish act of a stranger – I will forever be grateful to the donor and to their family – their gift of life wasn’t only to Dave – the gift was also to me, and to our daughter and son. We now have him back in our lives – to share our lives with him. And don’t get me wrong – Dave and I are just like any other couple – we have our disagreements. I’m just so thankful that I have him around to be able to disagree with him!

         So, back to those marriage vows I spoke of - for better, for worse?  Yes, we’ve been there.

         In  sickness and in health?  Yes, we’ve been there too.

        For as long as we both shall live?  I’m hoping for a very long life together! 


Tracy Yish