By Sue DeWerff | Hometown News
Walking 100 miles after receiving a heart transplant just five months ago would be nearly impossible for many.
But Titusville resident Debra Bair completed this task on March 9 in an effort to bring awareness to the importance of becoming an organ donor.
Ms. Bair, a retired ICU registered nurse, contracted a virus from a patient she was caring for in 2009, causing her heart to weaken so severely that a transplant was necessary.
After discussing what she then thought would be impossible, she visited Shands Hospital in Gainesville and was tested to be a recipient for a heart transplant. After two days of testing, she was notified last March that she would be placed on a transplant list.
Living on Social Security, she then had to find a way to raise $5,000 to cover medications so that she could survive, in hopes that she would receive a call letting her know that a donor match was found.
During her wait, she was more determined than ever to raise the money and decided that a 100-mile walk would be her plan. Along with her husband, Wade, she gathered necessary supplies and made a sign and began a walk down U.S. 1 in St. Augustine. She raised more than $6,000 and, with the help of the National Transplant Assistance Fund that donated $500 to her cause, she was able to pay for the medications.
During her wait, Mrs. Bair decided to volunteer with her mother, Earline Bair Allen, a 14-year veteran volunteer at the North Brevard charities thrift shop, located in Titusville.
Her mother, a breast cancer survivor, encouraged her daughter to continue her fight. In July the call came, and Mrs. Bair received her new heart
After receiving her new heart and living through what she described as "a miracle," Mrs. Bair, who spent more than three months recovering from surgery and witnessing others who were awaiting organ transplants, realized that she had to do something to thank those that supported her and gave her the chance to live.
She and Mr. Bair drove back to St. Augustine, and once again she began walking, one mile at a time.
Fortunately, her husband was able to be by her side throughout her journey, working around his schedule as a truck driver.
In February, she completed her 100-mile walk.
A longtime resident of Titusville and graduate of Titusville High School, Mrs. Bair wanted to show her appreciation to the community and thank the many local supporters.
Titusville Police Lieutenants Matt Demmon and Jeffery King, as well as Joe Robinson, executive director of North Brevard Charities, thrift shop coordinator Karen Mish and other employees of North Brevard Charities, as well as family and friends, honored Mrs. Bair at a celebration held earlier this month at the thrift shop.
"Over the years, Debi has become not only a cherished volunteer for North Brevard charities, but an inspiration to all," said Karen Mish.
Mrs. Bair was by Channel named Brevard's Hometown Hero by Channel 13 News last week.
A donation of a fragrance basket by Macy's was raffled and proceeds were given to the National Transplant Assistance Foundation. Parrish Medical Center was on hand to pass out information on healthy lifestyle living, and Papa John's Pizza donated veggie pizzas for the celebration.
"I have been a designated organ donor since I was 17," said Mrs. Bair, "never suspecting that I would be a recipient."
"Now that I have experienced what many can only hope for, I strongly advise everyone to visit the national website and become an organ donor."
For more information on becoming an organ donor or register visit the nationwide registry at www.donatelifeflorida.org.