Don’t give up. The reward is worth the wait.
That’s the message James Hudson Jr. wants to share with others in a new Richmond County transplant support group. A heart transplant survivor, he’s grateful to be alive. The 65-year-old Rockingham resident waited for an available heart for two and one-half years.
Hudson had a heart transplant in August of 2012. He suffered from a massive heart attack, as well as congestive heart failure for more than 20 years.
“For anybody that is going to be put on a transplant list, the key is to not get discouraged,” Hudson said. “The first year will be tough. You can make up your mind that you will do whatever you need to do to get through.”
For more than a year now, Hudson has been reading a website called Transplant Buddies that provides information about the transplant process, resources covering drugs and side effects, and daily discussions about living life as a transplant patient. Also, this site includes life stories covering experiences of both transplant recipients and donors.
Although the site has help him to cope with the aftermath of having surgery, he feels that there should be a local support group for transplant recipients in Richmond County. The primary reasons he wants to start this support group is to allow members to share their stories, encourage one another and relay resource information to each other. Hudson said he is enthusiastic about starting a support group for those who have had a transplant in order to help them cope with the transition that takes places after undergoing surgery.
For Hudson, his life has drastically changed since his transplant.
“I love to garden and they told me that I could not do that anymore,” Hudson said.
Among other things, Hudson is no longer able to swim. He also has to always carry hand sanitizer since getting sick can be fatal. In addition, he usually wears a mask to reduce his risk of illness. Most transplant survivors will carry a mask around in their pocket and when they are around people they will put them on, he said.
“He has done quiet well, but there has been some drawbacks,” Camilla Hudson, his wife. “It’s been a long hard road but we are making it,” she said.
Hudson was informed by a Duke Hospital representative that the average wait time for a transplant is six months. Hudson admitted that, due to his age, he doubted he’d be able to receive a heart. After 30 months, though, a new heart came by way of a 41-year-old donor.
“The day I got the call I was shocked,” he said.
At first, Hudson thought someone was playing a prank when the transplant coordinator called to relay the message. He was so nervous that he could not speak and ended up giving the phone to his wife.
Now Hudson is on the road to recovery. He has participated in rehabilitative exercise at Cardiac Rehab at FirstHealth Fitness Center in Rockingham since May.
“I am getting a lot better and a lot stronger. I can walk a lot better now,” said Hudson.
Hudson said that this experience is eye-opening and it has given him the courage to remain strong to never give up.
“I don’t know what kind of a future that I have, but none of us do,” he said. “Every heartbeat is a gift. Right now I live one day at a time.”
“His reaction has been really well and he was excited to be given more time to be able to spend with his grandchildren and since the transplant he has had a great-grandchild,” said his wife.
At this time, Hudson does not know how often the group will meet nor what time the members will meet. He just wants to reach out to those who would like to get involved with joining a group for transplant recipients.
Hudson can be contacted at 910-895-8180 to answer your questions about the new support group.
To learn more about Transplant Buddies, visit http://transplantbuddies.org/.
— Staff Writer Iris Hunter can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org