My name is Jose Calderon. At the age of 35, I was in the prime of my life. I had a beautiful family – my wife, my daughters (ages 14 and 11) and my son (age 3 at that time). I was running a brand new business and I was on top of my game. And this business was allowing me to provide for my family. Health wise, I was very healthy.
But on March 22, 2008, everything changed. That Saturday morning, I had a massive heart attack. From that moment on, my life changed.
I was in a coma for almost 3 weeks. When I woke up at UCLA transplant center, the first thing I heard was the doctors who said, “Mr. Calderon, you need a heart transplant.” I replied, “Doctor, you’re mistaken – I’m a healthy man.” But by the end of that sentence, I had to catch my breath. I was tired and I just had to listen. “Yes, Mr C your heart is very weak. The only chance of your survival is a heart transplant.”
It took almost two years for the miracle to happen. In these two years, my life was miserable. I cried many days. I felt many times that I wasn’t going to make it to the next day – not because I was depressed, but simply because my body was so weak, it was not going to function.
Then I got the call. The drive from my house to UCLA transplant center took over an hour. During that time, I reviewed my life for the past two years. I realized how fortunate I had been. Yes, my health was horrible, but my family, friends and my community have been there with me the whole time. I look back and I saw the way they took care of me, and the compassion in their eyes. They felt my pain and did their best to ease it. I went to the operating room with these thoughts.
When I woke up from the transplant, I couldn’t believe what had happened. Someone had given me his heart so that I could have a better quality of life. I truly believe that God was reflected in the love I received from my family, friends and doctors. I felt a necessity to give back a little bit of what was given to me. At that moment, Cadena de Vida was created.
Thanks to my donor, family, friends, community – I can provide for my family once again. I watched my two daughters graduate from university and I celebrated my son’s 13th birthday recently. And now, whenever I can, I communicate the importance of organ and tissue donation.