Bob Pitcock of Magnolia has good reason to be thankful for every day. In December of 1989 he suffered a heart attack and was given a dire diagnosis that his heart was failing and he needed a transplant. Luckily for him and his family, a heart became available several months later and he gained a new lease on life.
“You feel forever grateful that someone has faced the tragedy of losing a family member and thought to donate the organs to a patient in desperate need, especially at a time like that,” said Pitcock.
Many heart transplant patients have a long history of cardiac issues.
“I had hereditary heart problems and had five heart attacks over a six-year period,” stated Pitcock, who was a 50-year old family man, truck driver and musician at the time of his transplant. “I even had one heart attack while I was playing onstage at the Texas Opry Jamboree in Magnolia.”
After receiving his new heart in January 1991, Pitcock spent 17 days in the hospital. He recovered quickly, and was able to drive a car within five weeks. He still returns to St. Luke’s Hospital annually for a checkup.
“I was fortunate that I had no rejection issues and only a few minor problems in all these years,” he recalled. “I feel somewhat like Humpty Dumpty who fell into pieces. But, luckily, St. Luke’s (Hospital in Houston) was able to put me back together again.”
Pitcock has devoted his time to campaigning for families to donate the organs of their loved ones and to helping other transplant patients who need emotional support from someone who has gone through it. Sometimes he talks to them in person or over the phone; other times he corresponds via mail or email. He is a member of “Transplant Buddies” and has communicated with recipients and donor families all over the world.
Pitcock remembers a particular case of a 14-year-old boy who was afraid to accept his necessary heart transplant. He was able to talk to the boy and convince him that the operation would be worth it, and he finally agreed to the transplant. Afterward, the boy’s family called Pitcock to thank him.
“This is what I live for, along with just the feeling of happiness for being alive,” he said.
Pitcock credits his heart transplant surgeon, O.H. (Bud) Frazier, with saving his life. Dr. Frazier, the Chief of the Center for Cardiac Support at the Texas Heart Institute and Chief of Transplant Service at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital (both in Houston), has performed more than 1,200 heart transplants during his career. Pitcock was transplant No. 395 for Frazier.
Anyone needing emotional help with their own or a family member’s transplant can check out www.transplantbuddies.org, a community site dedicated to providing information and support about the transplant process.