LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's the donation that saved the life of former WAVE 3 News Chief Meteorologist Tom Wills.
Tom is normally a private guy, but he and his wife Pam along with their two daughters and grandchildren are so thankful to the family that donated his current heart, that Tom wants to start speaking out, hoping more people will sign up to be organ donors.
In early 2013, the former WAVE 3 News Chief Meteorologist got rapidly sick, then got stunning news. "They said, your only option is a heart transplant," Tom explained.
Tom's Cardiologist, Dr. Navin Rajagopalan of the University of Kentucky's Gill Heart Institute at Chandler Hospital said of Tom's condition, "He had a build up of a protein called Amyloid." A rare disease, Amyloidosis was attacking Tom's heart.
Pam Wills described the emotions, "You go from heart transplant what? To then later on, we've got to get him a heart transplant!"
Rarity also played in Tom's favor. His rare A B blood type made him a universal recipient. Tom said an unbelievable turnaround came through at UK, "I got official notification that I was going on the list on the 10th of June." He told us, "On the 11, I was actually on the list and on the 12, I got my new heart."
The heart of a 42-year-old man was a donation match.
Tom said he's so grateful to the family that donated the man's organs because their tragedy became a life saving miracle for his family.
Some patients wait months for a match, others die waiting. "There are people out there on dialysis who are dying of liver failure or who are on 6 or 8 liters of oxygen who need a new pair of lungs," Dr. Raja explained.
Tom's precious gift is more than life saving, it's life changing. With 118,000 people now on waiting lists in the U.S., far exceeding the number of organs available, Tom wants to volunteer to get the word out when he gets his strength back.
All Kentuckians can consent for organ donation when they renew their drivers license. But what you may not know? Open casket funerals can happen: The donor's body won't be disfigured by the surgery. And, all major religions approve of organ donation. Dr. Rajagopalan added one more thing, "We talk to donor families and they say sometimes, it can be difficult to have their loved one become a donor, but in the end, they say it is part of the healing process."
Tom said his message is simple, "Sign your cards because you never know if your gone," he added, "You're not going to need them anymore, but people like me will."
You can find out more about organ donation by clicking here.