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Heart transplant patient hooked up to machines to walk daughter down aisle to take part in Transplant Games of America

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In December, 2013, Timothy Lewis was in a Houston Methodist Hospital bed tethered to a heart pump while waiting for a heart transplant. His daughter, afraid her father would not be able to walk her down the aisle, moved up her wedding and decided to have it in the hospital chapel.

“I was very sick. I had no energy or strength, but I was determined to get out of bed and be there for my daughter on her special day,” Lewis said. “The hospital staff hooked me up to a machine and, although it took longer than it normally would, I was able to walk my baby girl down the aisle and even do a father/daughter dance with her in the hallway. A very special day.”

Two weeks later, Lewis received a new heart and this year he will take part in the Transplant Games of America, a four-day event where transplant patients and living donors take part in Olympic style events such as track & field, swimming, biking, etc. in an effort to show the world there is life after transplant. The games take place Aug. 3 – 7 in Salt Lake City, UT.

”These games are about more than competing in sporting events. It’s about meeting other people who have gone through the same thing you have and encouraging them to live their lives,” Lewis said. “I do it to honor my donor and his family. I want them all to know how much I appreciate the fact that he gave me a second chance at life.”

“Once you remove the bad heart and put in a new one, the patient’s heart failure goes away, and their other organs and muscles begin to work better allowing them to take part in something like these games,” said Thomas MacGillivray, M.D., chief of cardiac surgery & thoracic transplant surgery at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center. “I’ve had patients who have run marathons, climbed mountains and gone back to construction jobs after heart transplant. It can be done and it’s a beautiful thing to watch.”

Lewis will take part in track & field, basketball and volleyball. He knows he has come a long way from laying helpless in his hospital bed and says he still has a lot to do.

“I became a grandfather and get to hold my grandchildren and that would not have been possible without my donor’s generosity,” Lewis said. “I would encourage everyone to become an organ donor. It truly does make a difference. I am living proof.”

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