Decatur man spends first Christmas with new heart

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When he was about thirty six years old, Gilliam Green began noticing pain and trouble sleeping. Eventually, he went to a hospital, was diagnosed with a type of heart failure and was given medicine. As time went on, though, Green grew weaker.

“I couldn’t walk ten feet without being extremely tired, like I just ran a marathon,” Green remembered.

Eventually, he sought treatment at Northwestern Memorial HealthCare in Chicago. There, doctors installed an electric heart pump in Green’s body and added him to a transplant waiting list. Green’s wait ended on Thanksgiving.

“It was probably around 7:30. I was just fixing to go in and fix some Thanksgiving food and I got the call,” Green said. “She said ‘This is Elizabeth, the heart coordinator for Northwestern hospital.’ She’s like ‘Well, we’ve got a good Thanksgiving present for you. We found the perfect match for your heart.’”

Green drove to Chicago immediately and was at the hospital around midnight.

“I was scared. I didn’t know if I was going to see my kids again,” Green said. “They wheel you into surgery. They do the anesthesia. They say count from 45. I get to 44 and I was out like a light.”

The next morning, Green awoke with a new heart, and was walking by 2 p.m. Since then, he has returned to Decatur, taking 15 to 20 pills daily to prevent rejection or infection. Over Christmas, he plans to travel back to Chicago to spend time with family there and to go through tests at the hospital.

Meanwhile, he says he remains grateful for his new heart.

“I look at it like this: They added 35 to 40 years onto my life, and whoever gave it to me, I’d like to thank you for giving me a second chance at life to be with my kids,” Green said.

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