Jimmy Murphy is waiting for a heart donor, not waiting for a life

Times Free Press | Lynda Edward

Jimmy Murphy prunes his roses in his Hixson garden. Murphy will soon be traveling to Texas for a heart transplant. Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

Jimmy Murphy waters his garden by moonlight as dawn glows behind his Hixson neighbors' rooftops, the horizon just bright enough for him to detect the crimson of his roses, golden daylilies, purple clematis, magenta mandevilla, pale blue pansies and ivory columbine.

He enjoys the marigolds' astringent scent and the honeysuckle's faint spice. His old garden at his Soddy-Daisy home was bigger, but his doctors warned him that he must move closer to their care, so he built a new blossom-filled landscape in this small yard.

Strapped to his waist is a battery pack that powers a metal device the size of a money belt. He must wear both or he will die. A tube runs from the device through the wall of Murphy's stomach and plugs into a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) implanted in his chest.

"I'm careful to work in the garden when it is cool because, if I perspire, the area where the LVAD tube enters my stomach gets wet and that poses a risk of infection," says Murphy, whose calmness approaches Zen level.

The LVAD is the only thing that keeps Murphy's heart pumping blood. If its batteries go dead, an alarm shrieks and they must be immediately replaced or he can die. Continue reading