LaGRANGE, Ohio—Doctors never thought Terry Carroll would live to see today — let alone yesterday and the day before.That’s because on Jan. 22, the retired state trooper and deputy registrar literally was at death’s door. He was in end-stage heart failure, and his organs were failing because they weren’t getting enough blood.
Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic told his wife, Sue, that he wouldn’t live through the night.
But somehow, he did.
And, with the help of medication, he managed to hold on until July 12, when he received a new heart.
Carroll, 67, said he feels tremendous gratitude to the donor and his family, the medical staff and his own family.
“It’s just a miracle,” said Carroll, who is feeling a little stronger every day.
In fact, he and his wife sang the song “It Took a Miracle” before he went into the operating room.
Sue Carroll said her husband is on prayer lists all over the world. People they hadn’t seen for 45 years reached out to support the family.
She credits those prayers and her husband’s faith and strength of character with his survival.
“He’s a very determined person,” she said.
Carroll said he doesn’t know much about the donor, but the two families have exchanged letters of gratitude and support with the help of LifeBanc, the non-profit agency that coordinated the process.
Carroll is a real inspiration because he supported the donation program long before he knew he would need a heart himself, said LifeBanc spokeswoman Hadie Bartholomew.
Carroll, who ran the license bureau in Wellington from 1993 to 2007, made sure his staff diligently asked license applicants if they wanted to be a donor. The bureau was commended for its large percentage of willing donors.
“I never knew I’d be a recipient, however I took it very seriously,” Carroll said. “Now I look at it as the most important thing to ask.”
Carroll said he has a lot to live for. He and his wife have three daughters, a son and 10 grandchildren.
He called his wife “my angel,” saying she was at his side 124 of the 125 days he waited for his new heart.
The congregation at First Baptist Church of LaGrange was thrilled when Carroll came to church on July 27, six days after he was released from the hospital, according to member Eddie Stambaugh.
“None of us expected to see him so soon,” Stambaugh said. “Just seeing our prayers come to fruition left us speechless.”
Carroll said the stress of working as a trooper for the Ohio Highway Patrol from 1967 to 1993 probably took its toll.
“The fatal accidents were the most difficult,” he said. “Early on, we didn’t have the paramedics and rescue squads, and we had to handle first aid ourselves.”
If he wasn’t dealing with accidents, he was making traffic stops — never knowing if the person had a gun.
“One guy got out and pulled a weapon and I told him to drop it, and he did,” Carroll said.
Another man held an ax over his head as he ran toward Carroll’s cruiser.
“I was still on the radio, pushed my car door open and drew my weapon,” Carroll said.
The man, seeing the Patrol insignia on the car’s door, dropped the ax, laid spread-eagle against his car, and gingerly took his wallet from his clothing.
In another instance, Carroll stopped a van that was weaving and arrested a heavily armed brother and sister who had stolen a car in California and robbed a bar.
Heart transplants still amaze recipients and their families, although technically they have become a routine procedure, according to Dr. Randall Starling of the Cleveland Clinic.
“Within three to six months of his transplant, he’ll be able to do what any patient his age would do,” said Starling, vice chairman of the cardiology department and head of the cardiac transplant unit.
Besides being recognized as one of the top five transplant centers in the country, Starling said, the hospital does a lot of research, including testing new drugs and medications.
Normally, donor hearts come by jet and helicopter from a 500-mile radius because there is a four-hour window to transport donor hearts.
But a new device tested at transplant centers including the Cleveland Clinic might lengthen that time frame, Starling said. The device uses the blood of the donor, and “the heart is beating as it is being transported,” he said.
- Article by Cindy Leise with photo by Chuck Humel. Reproduced by permission of The Chronicle-Telegram.