Published: April 18, 2010
RINGGOLD — Earlier this year, Mark Ellis could barely walk or even talk for long periods without feeling drained of energy.
Now, after undergoing heart transplant surgery at Duke University Medical Center on Feb. 20, Ellis walks, talks and continually smiles.
“It felt like they had taken out a set of very inexpensive old batteries and put in some good Duracells,” he said with a laugh.
Mark didn’t expect to receive a heart so soon after being put on the list. He thought it would take at least six months.
In February, Mark went to Duke and received medication to prepare his heart for a possible transplant. He spent 11 days at the hospital and came home in time to attend a fundraiser for him at Ringgold Volunteer Fire Department. At the benefit, his wife Vicki Ellis got a call from Duke. “We got a heart, we got a heart!” she kept exclaiming, before grabbing her husband and heading back to the hospital. Mark didn’t have time to get nervous or worry, even though he knew there was a chance he could die.
Living on the verge of death for the past five years brought Ellis closer to God. He now sees how God brought everything together to answer his prayers. “It’s like God wrote a script,” he said. “I couldn’t have written it any better.”
The day after his surgery, he woke up and could feel a difference in his breathing and how he felt. His wife noticed the color came back into his skin, which looked pale and yellow before. After nine days, on March 1 Mark went home. Since then, he walks around his home or at Dan Daniel Memorial Park. He rides his stationary bike. “I feel like a different person,” Mark said. “I feel probably 10 to 15 years younger.” “He’s happier,” Vicki added. “He’s back to life and he’s smiling more than he used to.”
His muscles need to catch back up with his energy level now, he said, grinning. The 52-year-old hopes to get at least 10 years out of his new heart but still knows he’s not out of the woods yet. The next few months will tell, as he avoids infection and hopes his body doesn’t reject the heart.
He and his wife already bought four new fishing poles so he can take the grandkids fishing. Mark and Vicki thank everyone for their prayers and support, especially family and Ringgold Baptist Church. Mark asks everyone to think about being organ donors. He wasn’t listed as an organ donor before but would gladly donate any parts that could be used now. Receiving a heart and a new lease on life brought the importance of donating organs to his attention. Vicki has been listed as an organ donor since she started driving.
“A lot of people don’t think about being organ donors,” he said. “They can save more than one life.”