The importance of the Pray for Life Foundation mission is reinforced through the story of LA and Rona Train. Celebrating his 80th birthday and the 30th anniversary of his transplant in early 2020, LA is one of the oldest heart transplant recipients in Texas!
As a young, lively 18 year-old freshman student at Tulane University, LA was required to complete a routine physical for entry into college. There, it was discovered that he had an irregular EKG. A research team encouraged him to do a heart catheter, however, it was a very new procedure so LA and his family elected not to proceed with it. After continued symptoms of cardiac distress, he was diagnosed with an enlarged left ventricle – later identified as Idiopathic Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.
It was 1960 and LA was told his life expectancy may reach 50 years old if he was lucky. At the time, the physicians stated the only thing to save him would be for science and research to develop a path to perform a heart transplant. In the meantime, LA was told not to be too strenuous in his activity and to get plenty of rest. That’s easy for him to say…after all, LA was a young man with a whole life ahead of him!
LA met his wife, Rona, while at Tulane and they married after college graduation. Until the age of 48, life was normal. They raised a wonderful family and their children were now starting lives of their own. It was at that time that LA’s health began to decline. With his situation worsening and the science of heart transplantation more commonly known, LA was placed on a heart transplant list in 1988 with the support of his medical team at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston.
The family was operating a successful business and residing in Corpus Christi. LA’s health continued to deteriorate through the following year; making life very challenging with healthcare in Houston and home/business in Corpus Christi. In February 1990, LA was hospitalized in grave condition.
By March of 1990, many family members and friends had come to visit to say their final goodbye’s while LA awaited a new heart. On March 3, a miracle donor heart was located in the nearby area. The donor was a 37 year-old male who passed away in a movie theater from a sudden stroke. His liver and kidneys were also donated to other blessed families.
Following surgery, LA awoke to loud pounding and thought that work was being done on the hospital building. The nurse chuckled and said it was the noise of his strong, new heart beating.
Fast forward, LA has had no rejection challenges. He has traveled all over the world for work – operating a wholesale floor covering distribution business in 55 countries – and enjoyed a lot of travel for pleasure. He will be retiring soon at nearly 80 years old as he celebrates his 30th anniversary of the heart transplant and his 80th birthday on March 4, 2020 – thanks to the grace and generosity of his heart donor’s family.
Rona summarizes the true miracle and blessing of a donated heart this way… “The transplant interrupted our lives as we were both working and had to relocate from Corpus Christi to Houston. Friends from all walks of our life came forward to help us in a variety of ways. After the transplant, the medical staff cautioned us not to allow LA to become an invalid but to remain active and live life to the fullest. Our children were in college at the time. LA’s survival allowed him to experience college graduations, marriages, grandchildren and life throughout the last 3 decades. That blessing cannot be overstated!”
LA states that he and Rona have since told their story to many groups throughout the region to encourage awareness of organ donation.
When asked what they would say to others who are considering becoming donors, they replied…”If your loved one were in need of a transplanted organ to live, would you want them to receive that organ? If you would, how can you not be a donor yourself?”
A closing message from LA to organ recipients…”Be positive – attitude is more than half the recipe to a successful transplantation. And, take all medicines as directed. It’s critical.”
The Pray for Life Foundation sincerely thanks the Train’s for sharing their story and their words of wisdom for all of us!