In a post on social media, Patrick Solomon ’92, P’20, P’23 shares the story of his 2019 heart transplant.
“Pat, are you awake? You have a new heart.”
Those were the first words that Patrick Solomon ’92, P’20, P’23 heard upon gaining consciousness after heart transplant surgery. Inspired by an article about the journey of a transplant team at a local airport, Solomon publicly shared the story of his transplant for the first time — on Feb. 14, also known as National Donor Day.
Solomon majored in American studies and was a four-year varsity goalie for the 12-time Division III championship lacrosse team at HWS. He participated in the 1990 World Lacrosse games in Australia as a member of the Iroquois Nationals team. Solomon earned a law degree from Cornell University, was a founding partner with Dolin, Thomas and Solomon law firm in Rochester, N.Y., and was profiled as one of “Forty Under 40” by the Rochester Business Journal. He is also a member of the St. Regis Mohawk Nation and an associate judge for its tribal court.
The complete text of Solomon’s Facebook post appears below.
I came across this article a while ago and couldn’t finish reading it without breaking down. Just a little more than a year ago, teams of doctors, nurses, technicians, pilots, EMT’s, all working together like they did in this article, saved my life and returned a husband, father, son, brother and friend to my family and friends.
On November 15, 2019, after what was supposed to be a minimally invasive surgery to replace a leaky bicuspid aortic valve, I ended up in desperate need of a heart transplant. Fortunately, I was at Strong Memorial Hospital, New York’s only transplant center outside of the New York City region. After being placed on successively intensive machines to assist my failing heart, I ended up on ECMO. ECMO is a last chance life support machine when other life support measures haven’t worked. It completely replaces the function of the heart and lungs when those organs can’t support life themselves. While most patients are on ECMO for a few hours or a few days, I had been on it for 10 days and was running out of time. Finally, after clearing many hurdles in my medical condition, I was listed on the National Transplant Database late on November 29th, 2019.
Days, months or years prior to this moment, a wonderful person had made the decision to be an organ donor. Tragically, that person suffered a life ending event almost at the same time I was listed for a heart. Ten hours later, I was matched with his heart.
In the early hours of December 1, 2019, a jet left from Rochester airport carrying a cardiac transplant surgical team from Strong. They were headed many states away to personally assess the heart I had been matched with and return with it if it was right for me. I was prepped for the transplant and moved to the operating room around the time the surgical team was assessing the donor heart. As soon as we were notified that the plane had departed with my donor heart to return to Rochester, they slipped a mask over my face and told me to count down.
A moment later in my mind, but in reality many hours later, I heard someone ask me “Pat, are you awake? You have a new heart.” Eighteen days later, I went home to start the long recovery.
I don’t know how I ended up in the position to need a transplant. But once it became necessary, I can’t imagine being treated by a better team of doctors, nurses and technicians. Nor can I imagine having survived this without the love and support of my wife Jen, my sons Liam and Connor and his girlfriend Becca, my Mom, mother in law Sandy, brothers Bill, Tim and Marc, and their wives Tina and Tracey, and the most supportive group of friends and family one could be blessed with. To list them, and describe all they did for us, would be more than this article intends to accomplish. But you know who you are and may God Bless you all.
But the true miracle was one person making a decision to donate his organs. As this article points out, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of donors and transplants has significantly declined.
Nationally, 17 people die every day while awaiting a match for a transplant. On December 24, 2016, my father in law, James Heatley, unnecessarily passed away waiting for a lung transplant after a long battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He was way too young, and otherwise healthy, to not receive lungs. As of March 2019, New York State had the second lowest donor registration rate in the country. We’re better than that. Imagine the difference one person can make. One person can donate 8 lifesaving organs. Unfortunately, only 3 in 1000 people die in a way that allows organ donation. So we need many more people to be registered.
Today, on National Donor Day, I implore everyone to consider becoming an organ donor. Remember our friend and hero, Jeff McLaughlin, who died way too early, but was an organ donor and changed the life of an unmeasurable number of people and families. Go to RegisterMe.org or to your DMV and register to be an organ donor. And then be sure to share your intentions with your family members so they are aware if the chance to be a donor ever arises. Register now!