Organs needed: You could save a life
ART: RENEE TANNER/NEWS-REVIEW (ART: RENEE TANNER/NEWS-REVIEW / April 19, 2013)
"Tristan sees his dad's role is changing," Tina explained. "He knows daddy can't wrestle with him anymore and has had some tough times at school."
"He came home one day and said, 'Someone told me my dad is going to die,'" Tina added. "I just explain to him, 'Pieces in daddy's heart don't fit right anymore and we're trying to get him better.'"
"The crazy thing is, he feels fine and mentally he's fine. He's bored. He wants to go back to work. He wants to pick up our son. He wants to go out and play with the kids."
"It makes our lives hard because say I run out of eggs when I'm cooking, I can't just run out and get them because I can't leave him home and I can't send him out. And I don't want to pack up the whole family just to make a quick trip to the store."
On Tuesday, April 23, the Steads will travel to Grand Rapids where Mike will have a consultation to find out if he'll be put on the list for a heart transplant.
"We're just waiting," Tina said.
"It was like one minute our life was great, and the next -- I don't like to think like this, but your life can change so quickly."
The Steads have setup a website to collect donations to help with their living and medical expenses. Go to www.fundrazr.com and search for "Mike Stead."
The gift of life can change you
"If I had to choose one word to describe my recovery I would choose, 'unpredictable,'" Shepherd said. "I wouldn't say it has been worse or better than I expected but I can say I was not prepared for the past four months."
Shepherd is slowly getting her life back. She tries to get regular exercise and plans to continue her college education, yet she has to be careful not to get sick so she wears a mask in most public places. She undergoes biopsies each month to make sure her body doesn't show signs of rejection.
In addition to the 14-inch scar down her chest, she has a 6-inch scar from where a pacemaker was put in and three holes in her chest where holes were put to drain fluids.
She says she's lucky.
"It is a complete lifestyle change," she said. "I celebrated four months post transplant on April 2. I am recovering well with slight bumps in the road occasionally. Every time I think I'm getting the hang of it, life throws me a curve ball. This is only the beginning though and I'm anxious for my future."
Shepherd has been on the donor registry since she received her driver's license. She said receiving a life saving organ has only made her views stronger and more passionate.
"It made me realize how quick one's life can completely change and put their fate in a stranger's hands. It's disappointing to look at the statistics of individuals that aren't donors compared to the significant need for organs. As someone who has sat in a hospital bed awaiting an organ that could have never came, it's hard for me to comprehend anyone not joining the registry."
Shepherd now volunteers with Gift of Life. In her role, she educates people about the need for organ donation. She also works to correct many myths attached to the process.
"My hope is that by putting a face and story to organ donation, it will allow others to see how big of a miracle checking that box, can be," Shepherd said.
"Unfortunately, it's hard for some people to fully understand the importance of organ donation until it hits them or their family directly. I'm so incredibly grateful for my second chance at life, advocating for such a great cause is the least I can do."