me a “native” and I’m proud of that! I share memories of growing up along Anaheim Street, the Lagoon, Belmont
Shore, the ocean! I remember our Brownie meetings and Girl Scout adventures; I fondly remember some of my teachers. And I
remember assuming that my pounding, skipping heartbeats and shortness of breath were normal for everyone. It certainly didn’t
stop me from being a tennis protégé or taking part in school activities.
For 45 years, I lived in or around Long Beach. Fast forward a few more years and here we are now, reconnecting with
classmates and recreating friendships. This has been such fun and who would have ever thought that our sixth grade picture
in front of the auditorium would bring so many of us back together. I found it interesting that I could name almost everyone
in the picture. One of my most favorite inspirational messages is “There’s a day that you know changed your life.
And then life gets to be more precious.” The day that picture was taken is one of those days!
There are days that you know changed your life. And then life gets to be more precious! One of these “days”
in my life was a call from a classmate from Bryant Elementary, Carl Hughes. I had just come home from the hospital after suffering
a stroke and our conversation was such good medicine! We went back in time to the 1950’s and the playground, the ball
shack, our classrooms and teachers, Brownies, Girl Scouts, class elections. Camp Hi Hill and more. As more and more classmates
were contacted, we began to rekindle long, lost friendships.
was born with congenital heart disease and over the years my body began to deteriorate to the extent that after my stroke
in August 2001, I was diagnosed with severe hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and told that my heart would not be able to work much
longer. In February 2002 I was admitted to the hospital for congestive heart failure, moved to Intensive Care Unit and put
on the national waiting list for a new heart. I was kept alive with medicines and medical expertise until a compatible donor
heart could be found.
The Bryant Bunch, our classmates
for the years 1951-1957, became the Bryant Brats (www.bryantbrats.org), an endearing name several of us decided was more fitting
(and besides Bryant Bunch sounded a lot like Brady Bunch). This ever expanding group of elementary, then junior high and high
school classmates became very important in my family’s journey to find my new heart and a new life for us all.
Prayer warriors offered prayer chains, prayer requests, cards, gifts, and
well wishes flowed from everywhere. My hospital room was adorned with a warmth and peacefulness brought forth from everyone.
On April 4, 2002, a “day” that forever changed our lives (and
then life gets to be more precious!) --I got my new heart—a special family lost their loved one, and through this family’s
precious gifts, more than one life was saved and enhanced. Over 90% of Americans say that organ donation allows something
positive to result from the death of a loved one. Now five
wonderful years with my new heart have gone by. My family and many dear friends have become advocates of the “Gift of
Life” organ, tissue and blood donations, and we are busy spreading the word near and far. I was so happy to be able
to share my experience with the Wilson High class reunion last September and continue to reach out to communities through
the Organ Donor Program in Oregon (