“Ten years ago, I had a heart transplant,” he said.
It was 11:30 am when he walked into the Tuesday Bible study at the ATDC. Tall, thin, fit and energetic, he was one of those people you are drawn to. Something about him made him immediately likable. You know what I mean.
I said, “Hi. I’m Charlie Paparelli. I am one of the leaders of this study.”
“I’m John Simontacchi, and I am so excited to be here,” he said with enthusiasm.
“How did you hear about us?” I asked.
“I follow your blog posts for one. But I also heard about your work in startups and also with the High Tech Prayer Breakfast. I wanted to meet you,” he answered.
Hearing him interact at the Bible study drew me to him even more. He had a trust in God that I have not seen in many men. And I hang around with the “I believe in God” crowd. What was most striking was his pure joy. Not like he is happy all the time. But the word that describes him is joyful, as in light hearted and fully contented.
I wanted to know more about John and his journey which ended in a heart transplant. After all, there are only 2,000 heart transplants done in the United States each year. So we set up a meeting.
At the age of 40 while running a division for a public company, John became short of breath. He said, “All of a sudden, I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs.”
He went to his internist who recommended a cardiologist. The cardiologist delivered the bad news. “You are in heart failure,” said his doctor.
“That can’t be!”
“I’m 40 years old,” John said.
After a battery of tests, the cardiologist recommended a daily prescription. John said, “It changed my life. I was normal again. I went back to work. I took my new medication daily and continued with my career as a general manager.”
“How did you go on like nothing happened?” I asked.
He said, “I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior when I was 30 years old. I believed he held my life in his hands. I resigned myself to not worry about it. It was up to him whether I lived or died, not me.”
When he said this, I have to admit I was skeptical.
Within 10 years his heart became even weaker and could not keep a steady rhythm. Into the hospital he went, where they implanted a pacemaker.
This worked great, but after five years, the pacemaker was firing far too frequently, even in the middle of meetings. At 55, it was time to go on disability.
John’s health declined more.
His doctor installed a direct line into his arm to feed heavier doses of the drug directly into his bloodstream. This kept him alive, but then his health suddenly got worse. He was rushed to the ICU, and the decision was made to put John on the heart transplant list.
While in the hospital, a heart became available in the very same hospital. A young man died from a motorcycle accident, and his parents donated his organs. Miraculously, John was a perfect match.
John told me, “Just before they did the transplant, there was one more test. They shut off the pump that was delivering the drug which kept me alive. They wanted to see if my heart was strong enough for me to survive without the drug.”
They shut the pump off.
“A few minutes passed, and I felt fine. I started thinking I didn’t need this transplant after all. Then I crashed and almost died right then and there.
“That’s when I lost it. I started crying. At that moment, I completely turned my life over to Jesus. My faith wasn’t just a talking point which projected a positive attitude. I submitted completely. I couldn’t keep myself alive. My life was in his hands.
“I woke up after the surgery and asked my wife, ‘Did I get the heart? Did they do it?’”
She said, “You wouldn’t be here asking me if they didn’t. You now have the heart of a 20 year old.”
It is a miracle!
John is now 71. He has been living with his new heart for 10 years. At 65, four years after his transplant, he went back to work full time. He looks like he’s 50 and acts like he’s 20.
But what amazes me is how joyful he is. It is a joy you can only get by completely giving yourself to Jesus. He trusts God with his life.
After his wife told him the operation was a success, his next question was, “Can I have a cookie?”
It looks like his new heart gave him a sweet tooth!