Suzanne didn’t answer it thinking it was a telemarketer. When the answering machine picked up,
the woman’s voice said they had a heart for her, and she needed to call them back.
Suzanne raced to pick up the phone, but it was too late.
She dialed the number back, and the woman asked Suzanne if she was going to accept the heart. She said, “yes.” The woman told Suzanne that she needed to be at Vanderbilt by 6:00am the next morning.
That didn’t sound right. Something didn’t add up. David and Suzanne had been warned about “scams” involving transplant patients, and they weren’t sure that this call was the real thing.
The Vanderbilt Transplant Team had taken charge of Suzanne’s care. It was their job to keep her alive until a donor could be found. Suzanne was on a battery of medications that were meant to keep her organs healthy, while in reality, she was slowly losing her battle. Friends and family joined together to support her while she waited.
Suzanne would wait two years before a donor heart would became available. During that time, David was not working. He had left a business venture that didn’t work out, so they were living on savings. Medical bills were coming in, and the “out of pocket” expense was staggering. David took over, taking care of her every need.
Friends and family were doing everything they could do to support Suzanne. There was no guarantee she would get a donor. There was no guarantee she would live long enough to get a heart. There’s a shortage of donors, and organ donation is something that everybody should consider.
Suzanne knew she was in bad shape, but she wouldn’t let herself pitch a “pity party.”
Her condition is known as IGCM, or idiopathic giant cell myocarditis. The disease frequently leads to death with a high rate of about 70% in the first year. A patient with IGCM typically presents with symptoms of heart failure although some may present initially with heart block. Over 90% are either dead by the end of the first year or have received a heart transplant.
Suzanne was not as active as she would have liked, and the medication was taking it’s toll. Her doctors wanted her to save her strength, and not overdo it. Her “prayer warriors” were always at her side.
One of those warriors was Jean Purdom. She and her husband Ted met the Simpsons at church.
“We met at First Baptist Church. We both sang in the choir and we just became friends from there” Jean said. “We had a lot of common interests. Suzie’s an amazing woman and an incredible friend. What I’ve learned through all of this is the beauty of friendship that has a foundation in God. Our friendship is so much deeper than a regular friendship.”
Jean said, “If Suzie had been married to anyone else but David, she wouldn’t have made it. He was the absolute best thing that could have happened to her. He was amazing.”
David would say, “I love my wife. I was devoted to taking care of her. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.”
“Suzanne never changed during that time,” said Smith. She was always the same. She just wanted to serve. She never let her illness get to her, and she was always worried about others. I rely on her wisdom and strength. She’s an amazing person. She would pray with everybody. She would pray with her nurses, or with the workers at church. I just don’t know how people make it in this world without faith.”
Suzanne’s children, Melanie and Brad, were also inspired by their mother.
“Our family was not your typical family” said Melanie. “We had fun together. Mom and Dad were strict, but they were fair and loving. My dad is a strong man, but he has emotions and wasn’t afraid to show them. He’s as honest a man as you will find. My mother loves the Lord, and her faith gives her strength. It’s what got her through this.”
Melanie would also say, “This experience taught me that there is no pinnacle to your life. There is no guarantee, and while we all make plans, God has a plan for you. You don’t reach a point in your life where you’ve “made it” because God is always challenging you to grow and seek his will.”
Brad Simpson remembers, ” They persevered because of their love and faith in God. Dad always went along with mom when it came to her treatment.”
“Dad was concerned and he held a lot of emotion inside for the longest time, but he did what she wanted,” said Brad. I got inspiration for my marriage by seeing my parents committed to each other.”
Katrina Day is Suzanne’s younger sister. She was living in Destin Florida at the time.
“Suzanne and I got closer as we got older. I was away for twenty years, but we would always talk about things” Katrina said. “This was very, very hard for me when I learned about Suzie’s health. I would always try to keep it together when I was with her, but for the most part, I was a basket case. David has been the best thing that ever happened to Suzie. It was amazing how he took care of her, and protected her” said Day.
Suzanne never let herself think about death. Her faith is what gave her strength.
“I just knew I was going to be ok” Suzanne would say. “I knew the medications would work, or that I would get a heart. It wasn’t going to be productive for me to get depressed about it, so I tried to look on the bright side.”
Others weren’t so sure.
David remembers that the last six months before the operation, Suzanne was getting frustrated.
“The I V medication was getting to her,” said David. “She was not happy to be around. She was flat-out angry at times.”
To this point, Suzanne Simpson had defied all odds, but time was running out. She didn’t think about it, but those around her knew that something needed to happen, and it needed to happen soon.
The day Suzanne got the phone call she’ll never forget, and how she and David thought they might be the victim of a scam.
How a devastating winter storm almost kept Suzanne from the life saving operation she needed.
For more information about organ donation, visit www.organdonor.gov.
Suzanne’s chosen bible verse:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 16-19