From Waitlist Candidate to Hero: Bob Surratt’s story

Our donors and their families play a crucial part in the donation community; without their generosity, there would be no second chances for those awaiting life-saving transplants. Several of Maryland’s donor families have taken the time to share their loved one’s story with us, and we feel it is important to share them with our readers. We hope you are touched by these special people and their stories of second chances, hope and healing. We certainly are.

The following story was written by a donor wife, Karen Surratt, about her husband, Bob.

My dearest, best friend and husband, Bob Surratt died on June 30, 2005. It was an extremely sad, but a beautiful death. All those he loved were around him; all things that needed saying were said. We all would miss him terribly, but he, and we, knew it had become time.

Bob was ill for more than ten years with a heart condition. Throughout that time, he was cheerful and active. He wanted to do all that he could to live as long as he could. He rarely asked for help or assistance. Very few people knew of his illness, let alone how serious it was. Even when we went to an emergency room, I had to make announcements to the staff that they had better check his vital signs, and quickly, or they would have real problems on their hands. No one believed us until they checked his pulse.

During the year before he died, it became apparent that he would need a heart transplant. I knew nothing of the process necessary for this. Bob passed all the psychological and medical tests required with flying colors. He was hopeful; he wanted to live.

We did not know how difficult and heart rending waiting for a donor would be. However, his deteriorating health did not give him the time necessary for the wait and he eventually had a heart pump surgically implanted. He never recovered from this surgery.

Bob had decided long before this happened that he wanted to be an organ donor. He was adamant about his decision. He knew his body was ravaged by illness, but he wanted to make sure any part of his body that might help someone else be made available. His courage inspired many others to make sure their driver’s licenses now say “organ donor.” At the hospital, a representative came to talk to us about donation. She was sensitive, supportive and understanding. It made the whole process so much easier in the light of the horrific, life-changing event that just happened. Bob had always been proud to say that he would be an organ donor, and now he would be.

Bob was my rock. We were married for over thirty years, and had a love that many people can only wish for, and many never find. With him, every day was special. We were confidants, soul mates. He was my support system and the reason I could be strong throughout his illness.

It is appropriate that we participate in the Donate Life Family Fun Run every year; Bob absolutely loved to run and ride his bicycle. The time of year for this race is right as well. It is the time of homegrown tomatoes, which were another of his passions. As a matter of fact, Bob loved his life, his family, friends—everything about living. He had so many things he wanted to live for.

Many miss Bob, but I believe his spirit and love of life live on in those he touched; he won’t be forgotten. I think he would be glad that we are participating in this race, at this time of year.

Remember this wonderful man every time you take a breath—or eat a tomato.

To read more personal stories of hope and compassion, visit our website: http://www.thellf.org/extraordinary-people/personal-stories
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About Lauren

Lauren Muskauski is the communications associate at The Living Legacy Foundation. She heads up many community outreach initiatives and projects, with a focus on middle school, high school and college outreach. She also manages The LLF’s and Donate Life Maryland’s presence on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Lauren’s commitment to donation started early when she registered as an organ, eye and tissue donor at the MVA upon receiving her first drivers’ license, but was then reinforced a few years later when her father passed away while waiting for a liver transplant. Now, she continues to be inspired on a daily basis by the generosity of donors and their families, as well as the gratitude exhibited by every recipient she meets.
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