NEW BOSTON — On Valentine’s Day each year, we share our hearts with the people we love. That’s usually just a symbolic gesture made of construction paper and chocolates, but for Lisa Jackson of New Boston it means so much more.
Lisa, 44, was born with congenital heart defect. She had two holes in her heart, and had her first surgery when she was only 3 months old. Then another when she was 7 years old. Doctors told her mother that Lisa would eventually need a pulmonary heart valve transplant. They thought it would take much longer, but it came much sooner than they thought. She said the valve wasn’t closing all the way and was leaking.
“I was very tired. I had no energy and I was worn out,” she said.
In 1998, Lisa had five procedures to strengthen her heart, including a heart valve from a deceased donor.
But Lisa’s troubles didn’t end there. She has always thought that one day she would need a complete heart transplant, and doctors confirmed her suspicions in 2008 after she collapsed in her home a year earlier. She said she hopes it will be much later, but she already has a pacemaker and defibrillator, and she fears it — like the heart valve transplant — might come sooner than she’d like.
“It probably won’t be a whole lot later,” she said. “I go to Cleveland Clinic, and I was there in October, and they said they’re going to have to do something soon because I keep going in and out of congestive heart failure and the valve is leaking again.”
In the meantime, Lisa is on a restricted diet, and said she has been able to find strength through her faith in God.
“When I found out I had to have surgery, the appointment took unusually long and on the way home I was a mess. I asked God to give me courage, and we rounded the corner on (U.S.) 23 by the cemetery in Circleville where that great big lighted cross used to be, and that kind of was my sign that it was going to be OK. That no matter what happened, it was going to be OK,” she said.
Lisa has already benefited from one donor, and knows her life may depend on another someday. She is also an organ donor herself, and although she can’t donate her heart she can donate other life-saving organs and tissues.
“The only thing I can think of is, what if it was your child? I’m not a mother, but I know my mother would go to the ends of the Earth to do what she had to do,” she said. “It may not be your child, but it’s somebody’s child, and I can’t imagine what that person is going through.”
She also dispelled the belief that as an organ donor the hospital will let you die so they can harvest your organs.
“Hospitals aren’t there to let you die. Their job is that you stay alive and have a good quality of life,” she said.
There are several ways to register as an organ donor. The easiest way is to visit Lifeline of Ohio (www.lifelineofohio.org) and register online in the Ohio Donor Registry. The registry was created by the State of Ohio in 2002. You can also indicate your intentions when renewing a driver’s license.