The Catalyst Issue 20 | December 2014 - Page 23

As founder and pastor of Iron Horse Gathering in Mexia, Texas, James Murphy had ministered to people at bike rallies for decades, and finally founded his own congregation eight years ago. Meeting at the Mexia VFW every Sunday morning, Mr. Murphy lifts the spirits of many, but in 2011 he found his own belief being tested. fter experiencing several strokes and the implantation of pacemakers to regulate his heartbeat, he was left feeling exhausted just by performing his daily activities. When Mr. Murphy came home from work, all he could do was get in bed and fall asleep, depleting the family time that he cherished with his toddler daughter, MacKenzie, and his wife, Alicia. Mr. Murphy, then age 47, learned from his Waco cardiologist that his heart was failing; it was functioning at only 19 percent capacity. “My doctor said, ‘James, there’s not anything more I can do for you.’ Then he told me Scott & White had started doing heart transplants, and said that’s what I needed,” Mr. Murphy says. A The path back to health Three days later, Mr. Murphy was at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, being evaluated for a new heart, an intensive process that took several days. The waiting period for a compatible donor heart can stretch for months or even years. The rigorous process initially requires a clinical assessment of patients, and sharing that information with the governing body for organ transplantation, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS undergoes a complex match process for a compatible donor heart that’s based on blood type, medical urgency, geographic location, and age of the waiting patient. Mr. Murphy’s wait time was more than three years, consistent with the time frame that some patients can expect as they wait for a donor heart. For much of that time, he had to live in the hospital, and so he relied heavily on friends and family not only to keep his church going, but also to help care for his daughter. “For two years I barely saw her— just a few times through the glass,” Mr. Murphy says, recalling the extensive hospitalization stays he endured. MacKenzie was just two years old at the time, and it would be another two years until her father would be home permanently. This time proved to be an enormous challenge for the Murphys, as Mrs. Murphy would work during the day, care for their daughter, then drive to Temple to stay with her husband each night, and drive back to Mexia for work the next morning. “My wife, our family, and our friends helped us so much, and they never gave up on me,” Mr. Murphy says. But there was a time when he almost gave up on himself. By the time his 48th birthday passed in early 2012, Mr. Murphy had been on the transplant waiting list for more than a year. One day a friend of his from the hospital, another patient also waiting for a heart, got the call that one was available. Mr. Murphy, although happy for his friend, was angry that it wasn’t his turn. “I kept thinking, ‘He was only on the list for months, and I’ve been on it for years.’ So I went up to Scott & White and just sat there until 3:00 a.m. I was mad the whole time.” He decided he would stop using the portable heart pump, called a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, that had kept him alive for the previous year. “I told my family and friends that I was done. I was going to turn in the LVAD pump and say goodbye,” he says. Turning point That Sunday, though, proved to be a gift. After Mr. Murphy preached his own funeral to his congregation and went to a somber lunch with his family, he got a call. It was from Scott & White, and they had good news. “They said, ‘James, this is your sw.org | December 14 THE CATALYST 23