Heart transplant brings new life, love for Moses Lake woman | Health
For most of us, the organ donor box is just another thing to check, or not check, on our driver’s license paper work. But for people like Cindy Kehl, that tiny check mark means the difference between life and death.
For Cindy, heart transplants have become a part of life. Dilated Cardiomyopathy runs in Cindy’s family, and the condition has required heart transplants herself, her sister and one of her sons. Her mother died from the condition, and her oldest son died waiting for a heart transplant.
Cindy’s heart began failing in 1992 when she was just 39. The condition required the single mom to leave her two young boys behind in Moses Lake and move into the University of Washington Medical Center while she waited for the organ to become available.
“The worst day of someone’s life became the best day of mine,” said Cindy, who received a heart transplant in 1993. Immediately after the transplant, her heart stopped, and Cindy was hooked up to a Left Ventricular Assistance Device, and 20 years ago a patient could only stay on the machine for 36 hours before organ failure started.
“There were no hearts to be found,” Cindy said.
Cindy needed a new heart transplant, and with her kidneys failing and time running out the machine a miracle happened. One side of her heart started. A week later, the other side started and Cindy was on her way to a full recovery.
“It’s still a miracle, and it’s a marvel and a blessing to be alive,” said Cindy.
A year after her heart transplant Cindy was talking about organ donation at a Rotary Club meeting in Moses Lake. There she met Rick Kehl, whose wife had died a few months before in a car accident, the family decided to donate her organs. Cindy and Rick have been together ever since and married 12 years ago.
“I think it reaffirmed in his mind what good things can come out of something tragic,” said Cindy.
At almost 60, Cindy is the oldest living member of her family.
“I’m proud to be 60, I’m proud to still be alive,” said Cindy. “Who wants to be the old lady on the block? I do!”
While Cindy works hard to live and enjoy each day as a gift, dealing with the loss of one son, and a heart transplant for the other reminded her that she needs to do more to raise awareness for organ donation. She’s excited about the medical advances that have happened in the 20 years since she got her transplant, but is all too aware that transplants are still the best solution for most.
“We’re not there, nothing works better than the actual heart transplant,” said Cindy. “We’re dependant on each other.”
Right now in Washington there are over 2,000 people waiting for a transplant.
“Without the organs none of us would have been here,” said Cindy. “People need to be aware of what donation can do.”
What can it do? Organ donations from one person can save up to 50 lives.
“It’s such an incredibly important thing to get out there,” said Cindy, whose granddaughter has also been diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. She said it’s hard to put into words what it means to have hope from someone’s greatest loss, but she wants people to know that new life can come out tragedy.
“We never know what life’s going to bring us,” said Cindy. “No matter what happens, the joy will always rise up.”