Tom had a laugh that could fill up a room. A smile that would put you at ease. And he could easily talk to just about anyone about anything. He was fiercely loyal and an amazing friend to have in your corner. Most people did not know that he had a heart condition. He lived his life, never complained and never let it stop him.
One of his favorite quotes is from Jim Valvano, who inspired so many people with his battle with cancer: “To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. No. 1 is laugh. You should laugh every day. No. 2 is think. You should spend some time in thought. No. 3 is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day.”
Tom lived this way, and even with his passing he continues to be my hero and my inspiration.
He was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy while he was in college which was a result of viral pneumonia. Prior to that he was a talented football player both in high school and at Bloomsburg University. He was an offensive lineman - so he could be violent when necessary and play hard, but he always fiercely protected those around him. He had potential to move on to higher levels of football, but his illness stopped him from pursuing that path. He coached for many years and was a lover of both college and professional football. He would happily break down plays for you while games were going on!
Tom had an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) for over ten years. This is not a common thing. This device can be a bridge to transplant (a temporary thing to help keep a patient alive and functioning while waiting for a transplant) or it can be a device that one lives on instead of receiving a transplant. For Tom the goal was always a transplant, but he was a higher risk transplant recipient. He wanted the heart transplant so that he could live his life without batteries or tubes of the LVAD. He wanted to go swimming, be more active, and travel more. We had lots of plans.
The doctors and nurses of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, especially the Heart and Vascular Institute, gave us hope for this transplant. This team went above and beyond for us. Tom quickly became a memorable patient at Hershey, and even the food services employees knew him by name. It is the type of place where you feel cared for beyond just being a patient.
My hope is that any money raised can aid in researching how to improve outcomes for the higher risk patients, so that someone in our position has a different outcome.
Tom was a husband, a son, a brother, and a friend. He was an amazing man who taught us all to love harder, live every day to the fullest and appreciate everything that you have.