Penjihad's Blog

"To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable"

My Heart Transplant Journey

I have been very lucky, I have had FOUR heart offers in as many months in spite of my rare blood type.

The first was rejected by my surgeons at the last minute, as I was being wheeled into the operating room because it was not considered good enough by them. While they were prepping me for the second heart, I gave a piece of embroidery to Kathy that I had commissioned my niece Chloe to create, I thought it would provide her with some comfort no matter which way the surgery went. To my relief she liked it but the surgery was cancelled within a few hours of prep because again, the surgeons rejected the heart.

The third came up on the night of July 25th but it was from a “high-risk donor” which means, there COULD be a possibility of an incurable disease that may be lying in its latency period. After some thought, I called Kathy and told her I was unwilling to risk passing that kind of a threat to her so I was rejecting the heart. The doctor who called me about the third heart told me it had been thoroughly checked down to its DNA but yes, there was a possibility of something still undeveloped. She warned me that if I did not take this heart, there would be no predicting when another one would show up or, that my body may suddenly deteriorate to a point where I would be an unacceptable candidate for a transplant…or dead by the time one did show up. Nevertheless, I decided it was not worth it to risk the health of another (my wife) just so I could be safe. I rejected the heart.

The next morning, a new good heart showed up, I was prepped for the surgery (4-5 hours) and 8-10 hours later, it was done; I had a new heart. As I was being prepped for surgery I said a few prayers. My first prayer for peace and comfort for the loved ones of the donor’s family and a blessing for the donor. The second one was more personal. I said to God that if it is His wish that I should not survive this surgery, then I was at peace with that decision but to please give my loved ones, peace of mind and comfort. However, if it was His wish that I should survive the surgery successfully, then to please allow me the opportunities to help others in meaningful ways.


In case things did not go well, I had made some arrangements. I asked three faith-leaders who are also friends, to pray over the funeral. Starting with the Sufi Imam Jamal Rahman, followed by Rabbi Anson Laytner and ended by Conservative Sheikh Fazal, each would say a few words and a prayer, in about five minutes each. My goal was to show people that religion and sectarianism have no place in humanity or, with God. Perhaps unconventional but a worthy message.


I woke up in the recovery room two days later because they could not remove the breathing tubes until I could breathe for myself. As soon as they removed the breathing tube, I threw my head backwards and closed my eyes. As I did so, three vivid pictures flashed through my mind’s eye.

I saw three images of two large Black women in deep state of grief with a young person (Could not say man or woman), eyes closed, lying between them. One woman had a purple dress on while the other had a bright red dress. They were in a room with some things hanging from the ceiling that reminded me of things young people hang from ceilings in their rooms. I opened my eyes with a start, the nurse I mentioned it to, said I had been sedated which may be the cause of a hallucinatory experience. Was it? Could it have been a supernatural connection with the deceased donor? I don’t know but in a year, I will be permitted to send a letter (through UNOS, the transplant organization) to the family of the person whose heart beats in my chest today and if they agree to a meeting, I am rather looking forward to checking out what happened in my mind’s eye and certainly, to give them whatever comfort I may be able to offer as well as my gratitude to the young donor and their family.

Today, on day two of my release from the hospital, it feels rather strange to be back at home after two months of hospital stay. I can feel the small but daily improvements in my energy levels and am pretty sure I will regain all the lost muscle mass in time.

I have been extremely lucky to have so MANY loving friends and relatives who visited ceaselessly, a tiring but revitalizing experience that helped carry me through the two-month isolation in the hospital. So many people brought home-cooked meals that I did not have to eat the HORRIBLE hospital food. As inedible as the hospital food was, the healthcare staff of nurses and assistants were the fines and most professional people I have had the good fortune to have met. I cannot thank everyone enough.

Three more months, November and I’ll be ready to get back to work. I would enjoy that.

August 11, 2019 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,


  1. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Richard Silverstein | August 11, 2019 | Reply

  2. No surprise; thoughtful, complete, compassionate and meaningful. Did it again, as if describing a day in the park Jeff. My hero.

    Congratulations my dear friend. You looked death in the eye and said, “With all due respect God, I have a few more jobs to complete, “in your name” (of course) before calling it quits. With your permission of course.

    Knowing the importance of having at least one thoughtful, generous and forgiving ‘ liberal ‘ in the neighborhood, the good lord agreed. There is now hope for us all. GO TO WORK!!!!
    Love ya my friend. Great to know prayers DO work even for reprobates!! 😉😁👍

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Ron Monaco | August 11, 2019 | Reply

  3. Great my friend.Allah has answered our prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Abid | August 12, 2019 | Reply

  4. Jeff,
    I would be really curious when you do get in contact with the donors family if your vision was about them when you work up from surgery.
    So glad you wrote it down so that memory stays current.
    Glad that all went well.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Cara Fleming | August 12, 2019 | Reply

  5. Your blogs or commentaries have always been so thoughtful and focused on reconciliation among the religious faiths. I am glad you will be around a bit longer to further inspire and give some of us hope for a better and kinder world. While I am not religious (in the organized sense) I do believe in a greater force and I am intrigued by your dream experience. I do believe that people can be connected in ways we, mere mortals, can not fully grasp. Be well and continue to beat your drum!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by helga Van Miegroet | August 15, 2019 | Reply

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