Louisville Magazine

AUG 2016

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.16 131 Dr. Dan Garcia Continued from page 63 bourbonmixer.com Garcia woke up in Colorado, thinking he was standing in the snow-capped mountains, hearing John Denver, remnants of his honeymoon camping in the Rocky Mountains. "I didn't know whether I had died or not," Garcia says. "I thought maybe I had died and I was entering heaven." But his periphery trickled in; his wife, Rita, his children and grandchildren stood next to his bed. On the bed tray was a laptop, a homemade slideshow of Estes Park and the Smoky Mountains. e stranger whose dream pushed Garcia to pursue treatment at UK was in the waiting room. His fingers found his abdomen — no more LVAD wires. Moving up to his chest, he felt where they had cracked his rib cage to place a beating heart that used to belong to a woman. No longer would his pockets be filled with the sagging weight of batteries, charging ports scattered throughout the house and office. e generator would become a convenience, a way to keep the fridge running in a power outage. His first directive: get moving. "Every day you're in bed, it's going to be seven to 10 days recovery," his doctors said. Day two: Twenty steps with a posse of nurses carrying fluid bags, oxygen. "I looked like I had a whole ICU with me," he says. Days later, laps around the nurses' station. Moving was hardest, going from couch to chair, lifting out of bed — always too little breath, too little stamina. But after months of cardiac rehab, Garcia can walk two miles, nonstop. Seven weeks is the magic number, the goal of recovery. Garcia spent 17 days in the hospital ward. Behind his bed was a mural — painted mountains and calm streams. A couch pulled out into a bed for visitors. His window faced south, catching natural sunshine and students on campus. He rented an Airbnb home five minutes from the hospital to make his frequent outpatient checkups. After months of cataloging medicines in an orga- nizer, monthly heart catheterizations and drives to Lexington, Garcia says the biggest change is warmth — in his hands, his feet, his bald spot. His muscles aren't achy. "You know the feeling you have before the flu? I always had a touch of that," he says. "Looking back, it's like a whole new chapter for me. ey did a good job on me." Garcia is in the process of writing a letter to the family of his donor. "A lot of people go through guilt or depression (after a transplant)," Garcia says. "I never had any of that. I see it as a great gift. I think it's very generous to give a heart." and for a moment I was disappoint- ed. ere was nothing more to see. is had been my reward for hiking through the heat-addled woodland for nearly an hour. I remembered that Brother Paul had told me to watch for them, as if they would be hard to find. Yet here they were, in front of me. So I stopped. I sat down to look at them. I swatted at something buzzing near my ear. I guzzled from my water bottle. e forest soared above me. I breathed out. Listened. Light poured onto the trees, shock- ing each leaf into detail like a gold icon in a stained-glass window that hovered in the air. And then I was noticing a tablet patched with lichen, the silver trilling of a bird within the canopy, the chiaroscuro of light and shade chasing across the statues, the sweat that glistened upon my arms and whorled my hair into seaweed patterns and splashed upon the peb- bled ground, even the droning specks darting somewhere above my head. But now I didn't mind them. I was just there. I was watching.

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