Recently I had the chance to interview Paul Cardall, an award-winning musician, (His album Sacred Piano recently hit #5 on the Billboard New Age Album charts) Husband, Father, and fellow Heart Warrior. Like me, Paul has Tricuspid Atresia, (along with Transposition of the Great Arteries) and he recently underwent a successful heart transplant. I’ve kept you updated on Paul and his need for a transplant here on Funky Heart!, but you can read his entire story over at his blog, Living for Eden.
Funky Heart! readers have heard me describe my heart defect many times, but every defect is different – and its effects are different, from one CHDer to another. When I asked Paul to describe his heart defects in his own terms, he wrote “Before my heart transplant, I was born with what my parents and cardiologist called a half heart. Only half of my heart was functioning. The other half was either missing or not being used. As I grew into adulthood I learned the serious nature and depth of my congenital heart defect. I was living primarily on a single ventricle instead of two. In addition the major vessels that carry and deliver blood from my heart were swapped.”
Paul has had six major heart surgeries – his first surgery was the Potts Shunt, when he was 22 hours old – and what Paul describes as “various minor surgeries involving pacemakers and leads.” All of his procedures were done at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt lake City, Utah.
People who aren’t familiar with the Cardall family know that Paul’s blog, Living for Eden, is the name of one of his albums. They may miss the double meaning: Eden is Paul and wife Lynnette’s young daughter, and the name reflects Paul’s determination to “live for Eden.” When asked if Eden was old enough to comprehend the meaning of a heart transplant, Paul said “I think so. She prayed her Dad would feel better and get a heart. God answered her prayer. Not all prayers are answered the way we want but for some kind and merciful reason He answered her prayer. Eden is drawing pictures of me with a big red heart on my chest. She understands and what a great lesson it will be for her as she grows older.”
The other member of Paul’s team is his wife, Lynnette. Herself a nurse, Lynnette had no misconceptions about the struggle that her future husband might face: “She understood the burden getting into this. Her own mother died of Cancer, leaving Lynnette’s schoolteacher father with ten children to care for. Lynnette has been through it. She feared it for her own kids but when her Dad asked, `Are you sure you want to marry a guy who might die?’ She replied, `Why not, I love him!’ In my Mormon culture we don’t marry for time – we marry forever. Some of our marriages are cut short in this world because of death but we believe our relationship endures beyond death because Jesus conquered death.”
The call that the Cardall family had been waiting for came a year ago – on Christmas Day 2008, of all days – “We have a heart for you.”
“The first call for a heart came Christmas morning at one AM,” Paul continues. “After putting my 3 yr old daughter Eden to bed Santa Claus visited our home. The phone rang after Santa was finished telling me there was a heart for me. My first thought was, `Wait… I’ve got to enjoy Christmas with my daughter…’ We woke her up in the middle of the night and opened presents. We left her with my sister-in-law and went to the hospital. Retrospective thoughts of nostalgia and hope in the future flooded my mind. My wife and family were not very hopeful and my surgeon said, `There’s a good chance you won’t make it… if you do we’ll need to go back in several times to stop the bleeding.’”
“We were discouraged but had hope. After saying good-bye and lying on the operating table with some sedative I was told the heart was not good enough because of an overlooked aneurysm. Needless to say, I was relieved. I knew we’d have another opportunity.”
With no heart available after all, Paul was sent home. Waiting there was Eden… with the Fisher Price Medical Kit that Santa had brought her. Like any good doctor-in-training, she checked Paul’s heart and gave him a “shot”.
“I went home with a renewed purpose and found happiness in reaching out to others with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) via my blog. I knew the call would come. Prior to Christmas I was focused on my self and my situation, [but] after Christmas I lost myself in the lives of other people. When the final call came the day before my transplant everything felt right. I believe timing is everything. It was time and I knew I’d survive. My family was also in the right frame of mind and comforted by God’s love.”
Hello to all our much loved friends. This is Paul’s wife Lynnette posting from Paul’s ICU room. We are deeply grateful and thrilled to share with you that Paul has received his NEW HEART!!!! – Living for Eden blog entry for September 10, 2009
I have seen a Transplant patient up and walking the day after their procedure so I asked Paul how long after the transplant was it before he felt better. (“Better” being a relative term; having your chest sliced open hurts!)
“Immediately!” He said. “Although I had multiple tubes running in and out of me I was alive and felt invigorated. I could feel blood flowing in my body and a sensation in my fingertips. My Protein Losing Enteropathy (PLE) was corrected after a couple of weeks. I was home in two weeks and hiking in three. Needless to say, I feel amazing and highly recommend a transplant for those trying to decide… [Lynnette] is amazed. As a nurse she is a realist and wasn’t confident in my outcome. But, as my wife and the love of my life she believed in my optimism and confidence in my own future. I’m so grateful for her support and friendship. I am a very lucky man.”
With a new heart and energy he’s never had before, Paul’s musical career can now resume. “My first public appearance on February 15 in Salt Lake City will be a concert at prestigious Abravanel Hall with musician friends as we celebrate life. We are giving a scholarship to an adolescent with CHD from a silent auction fund.” Tickets to the concert are available by calling 1-888-451-ARTS (2787) and are also available online.
And after the concert? Paul plans to climb Mount Olympus (the one in Utah, not Greece) on June 9, 2010.
And after that?
“Life,” Paul responds, a simple one word statement that carries so much meaning. “Creating memories. When you have second chance at life all that matters is each other and making sure we spend enough quality and quantity time together. In the end, your family is all you got. Also, I’d like to have opportunities of sharing my story with those who need to be uplifted and inspired, as well as educating the general public of the growing concern of Congenital Heart Defects (CHD).”