Our volunteers play a critical role in communicating Donate Life messages. From time to time, we will spotlight our wonderful volunteers and share their stories of second chances, hope and healing. We hope you are encouraged by these special people. We certainly are.
Volunteer Spotlight: Jose Vargas
Throughout my life I have faced many challenges. The first of many was coming to the United States at the age of ten without speaking a word of English. At the age of eighteen, I joined the U.S. Army where being a paratrooper taught me to always be ready for new challenges. Little did I know at 23 years of age no amount of training would ever prepare me for the biggest challenge of my life.
In September of 2002, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure dilated cardiomyopathy, and the outlook was not looking good. I was started on a medication therapy which stabilized my condition for a few years. After being medically retired from the military, I moved back home to Maryland with hopes of being accepted into the transplant program at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. My condition kept deteriorating and in December of 2006, while in the hospital, I suffered four cardiac arrests. I woke up with a life-saving device called the left ventricular assist device, more commonly known as an LVAD.
My life as I knew it had been completely changed. I was now depending on a machine to stay alive. I wanted to quit many times, but my wife, Jodie, never let me give up. Four months after my LVAD implant, I was placed on the national transplant list. On the May 29, 2008 I received the greatest gift a person can get. I got a life-saving heart transplant and a second chance at life. Soon after my transplant, my wife found out she was pregnant with our son, Ilan. We now live in Illinois where we are both attending nursing school, a decision we made as a result of my transplant experience.
Since my transplant, I have been able to do things I never thought to be possible. I was part of team Maryland at the 2010 National Kidney Foundation U.S. Transplant Games, taking a silver medal in swimming. All this would not have been possible without the kindness and strength of a donor family that found the courage to make such an important decision in a time of crisis. They are the real heroes to whom I will always be grateful. Please be a hero, be an organ donor.