Amory man celebrates 10 years with heart transplant

By Jeff Clark/Monroe Journal

AMORY – Ten years ago, Amory resident Bobby Johnson was on the verge of death.
The only thing that would keep him alive was a heart transplant.
“I was dying of congestive heart failure,” Johnson said. While hospitalized in Birmingham, he said, he was so sick that “I coded three times. I would be talking to my wife, doze off and wake up in ICU with a bunch of tubes in me. I was so sick that after being there six months, I went to the top of the transplant list.”
He got a new heart on June 19, 2000, taken from an 18-year-old who died in a car wreck. Two weekends ago, at a celebration at the East Amory Community Center, Johnson joined his friends and family and some special guests – his donor’s family – to give thanks.
“The night before we met, I didn’t sleep a wink,” he said. “I didn’t know how to approach them or what to say. How do you thank someone for saving your life? But the meeting went great, they were amazing people. We had a nice visit.”

Receiving an organ
Johnson, 55, didn’t know much about his donor until he was looking through a newspaper while recovering in the hospital.
“I found his obituary in the paper and it hit me like a ton of bricks,” Johnson said. “It was devastating to me. It broke my spirit. It took me a while to get back to myself. Finally, my doctor said, ‘You had nothing to do with this man’s death. You should be thankful to God that he was an organ donor.’ That really got to me.”
Johnson said he wrote his donor’s family a letter a few years back. Finally, on the 10th anniversary of his transplant, they were able to meet.
“I am so grateful that we were able to meet and I was able to thank them for what they have given me and my family.”

Living life
Although Johnson said he’s a bit slower than he once was, he enjoys his second chance at life.
“There are a lot of things I can’t do anymore, but I’m grateful just to be able to get up and walk around,” Johnson said.
“I was a school bus driver, but I can’t do that anymore because I don’t have a strong immune system – you know how kids want to hug on you. I’m going to have to have a kidney transplant soon because the medicine I’ve been taking has destroyed my kidneys.
“But I’m not crying over it – I’ve had 10 more years that I was never supposed to have. I also want people to know that if they are facing a transplant and are scared or have questions, they can call me at (662) 305-5568 and I will answer any questions that I can.”