Love, Smile, Laugh, Create, Garden, Fish and You

| August 11, 2015 | 3 Comments


November 2, 2015 will mark my six-year heart transplant anniversary. My Tampa General transplant team counts the years, but I count the grandchildren. With the birth of future sumo wrestler, Cameron Doolittle, I have now met five (of ten) grandchildren that I might not have met without the gift of a second life.

How blessed can one person be? Maybe youngest daughter, Abbi, will pitch in and have her first child in the next year or two? I’d like to meet her baby in this life but this attorney-at-law is known for her stubbornness.

Cameron 1

Anyone who has followed my transplant and recovery knows how challenging the last five years have been. I often ask, “How is it that I am still alive and still receiving blessings every day?”

If you knew my medical history, my gift can only be described as a miracle; a miracle that I received an organ and a miracle that I get to think about, speak with and enjoy our children, grandchildren and my wonderful bride every day.

Yup, you may have heard that I rediscovered my faith and found myself. It’s never too late! But, there seems more to this blessing than finding one’s self and one’s faith.

A Little PTSD Experience Helps

There have been times I sensed that physicians and nurses felt I was over the edge, that I should be dispirited. Once in a rare while, I have been low. Life has changed, but it’s for the good. I was so adrift.

I no longer enjoy the sports that consumed my pre-transplant lifestyle. I have lost most of my muscle and strength, my nervous system is a wreck and I cannot taste food and therefore do not enjoy eating. I need medicine to inspire an appetite.

But, the gift of life has never stopped being a blessing. At no time since the transplant did I think I would die, not even when things looked bleak, when there was pain or another “life or death” moment.


When I am low, I pray… for you and me.  When I feel good, I give thanks. When my time comes, I will move on in peace, having given it my all. Life is pretty simple; so simple, that sometimes I wonder why it was so complicated pre-transplant.

I remember PTSD struggles after my tour of duty. The disorder have been with me a long time. I never think about that anymore. But, I think that experience actually helped me with some of the countless procedures post-transplant, which I now take in stride as part of the deal.

I don’t dwell on my shortcomings or anyone else’s.  I do not want to live in the past or the future. I want to live every moment as it happens. It is A-OK that my life is day-to-day! It sorta’ makes you want to get up and get at it.

If I am writing, I want to be into it. If I am fishing, that’s my concentration. The narrower my focus, the better things go. I have this moment, these grandchildren, my writing, the love of my life and my faith. Perhaps, there should be more but when push comes to shove, “Less is definitely more” for me.


On a chalkboard in our kitchen there is a sign bearing our inscription: “Love, Smile, Laugh, Create, Garden, Fish.” It’s not a bad formula. Simple? Yes. Uncomplicated? Definitely. Feels right? You bet.

When I think back to my rather insane pre-transplant lifestyle, it is difficult to identify periods of time when I did not think I should be doing something else. There was always so much to do! Now, there is the next moment. It’s a cleansing transition.

Today, much of my pre-transplant life is a blur but my first recollection is always how much time I wasted stressing over things that were beyond my control. “Way too much!” always comes to mind.

I credit the transplant psychologists that got me off that slippery slope and onto something concrete; a lifestyle that is for the most part devoid of stress. I was told to put everything else out of mind… and I have.

But, more importantly, I must thank my beautiful bride for helping me re-discover my faith. I intend to write more about this and a whole new approach to wellness in the following weeks. Hope you stay tuned!

In closing, I must say it is amazing what power faith and real wellness bring to the human body. Discovering these dimensions and a few others are the reasons I am still alive and enjoying every minute of life. Amen!

Family Plot

Filed in: Recovery

3 Comments on "Love, Smile, Laugh, Create, Garden, Fish and You"

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  1. Bayne Stevenson says:

    Hiland….I was very touched by your writing and certainly look forward to reading more about your journey. BTW where can I get one of those kitchen chalkboards ??? ’til soon, Bayne

  2. Hiland Doolittle says:

    Tampa General Hospital. See you and Jeannie soon, Bayne!

  3. Joe Antony says:

    Apologize, I didn’t know this! Hope I was also part this wonderful journey. It is a great article, very encouraging. I am glad mother Ronica and Zolia made a difference and added meaning to your life.

    You are one of most respected gentleman I know.


    Joe Antony

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