A New Heart and a New Life for Robb
My husband Robb Olds, 35, is very ill. After years of dealing with progressive cardiomyopathy, a heart transplant is the only hope for long-term survival. Robb is one of the most determined and supportive people you will ever meet. He is a loving husband and a wonderful father to our young son. To know Robb is to know someone with unwavering confidence and a healthy sense of humor that he shares equally with everyone he knows. He has brought strength to others his whole life and now needs strength for himself and our family. The cost of a transplant can be overwhelming and your help will make a difference.
February 7, 2021
1,577,847.6 minutes. I know it is cliché to quote Rent; but that is how much I have benefited from another’s death, his and his family’s gift. I would like to say I made the best of it and that I am confident they would be proud of me and the things I accomplished. I wish I could talk of the great things that happened the last few years and use them as inspiration to others on why the gift of life is such a precious and wonderful thing that leads to other amazing instances of life. However, I can only say that as I reflect I lower my head understanding that not enough was done to honor him.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t waste the years or time by any means (at least not in the simplest ways: I did not fall into drug addition, drinking or smoking – obvious things that would be a clear violation of the transplant code). But today I find myself asking, was it enough? Am I worth it? What will be worth it?
With each day that goes by I find myself wondering more frequently if the fleeting time I spend each and every day is done with enough love, happiness and purpose. As a father I obsess over the little interactions, criticizing my every action and lamenting those moments when I lost my patience or worse, my temper. As a husband I regret all of those small interactions where it would have been much easier to prioritize my adoration instead of carrying over whatever curse I enabled the outside world to inflict upon me that day. As a person, I have never been more confident that I have not done enough for others – only recognizing my privilege in my late 30’s and just now truly understanding how unequal things, simple taken-for-granted everyday things, really are. As a human, I added this all up in a column of pluses and minuses and the results were not pretty – 2020 was not a “banner year” for Robb.
Honestly it was a tough year for many people. I don’t need to spend time telling anyone reading this how bad things got this year; how bad they still are and how far we still need to come as individuals, as a nation and as people. What I will do is lay out what I am going to do and how I am going to take my regret, frustration and personal strengths and apply them now and moving forward.
Personally, I see power in simplicity, maybe it is because I tend to talk too much and am envious of those who can convey so much with so few words. Net, here is my attempt at two simple statements I am going to use beginning today as a guide to daily actions:
1. I will improve the lives of my son and wife, the lives of those who did/do not share my privilege and my own life – in that order.
2. I will not forget to be thankful, but I also will not accept that being thankful is a reason to stop moving forward – appreciation is profound, but secondary to progress.
Day One: today after I post this message I am going to go downstairs, tell my wife I love her and give my son a huge hug and join whatever they are doing. We are going to watch the Super Bowl, enjoy the day and I will find time to reflect with my son on the media we see compelling positive social change and how not long ago this wasn’t shared enough and how he and I can do more. Why we must always do more. Today I am thankful for my donor and his family, for the strength of my wife and her courage that drives our family forward, for my amazing son whose genuine kindness is reminder of how we should all be and for Help Hope Live for continuing to provide me and so many others a platform to make the gift of life an everyday act. I am thankful for my gift of life, but it is not enough and I will achieve more in my personal and professional life. Most importantly, I am thankful for the knowledge I gained through recognizing my privilege and the weight of that responsibility. I appreciate what I have, but now I need to help make sure those things are not exclusive to people who look like me in the future.
On to year 4. Take action, be thankful, keep going.
February 7, 2019
A year ago this week a man died. At that point I had spent the prior year and a half planning (secretly when I could) how to take care of my family if luck didn’t fall in my favor. At 6’6” and +275lbs I am atypical, but with O- blood I was about the worst combination possible to match for transplant. Not so simply, I needed a male organ donor over 6’4” with O- blood. Around one percent of men are 6’4” or taller, roughly 60% of men are organ donors and about seven percent of people are O- blood type. When accounting for those factors and region for viable transplant, the total number of available donors was somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000. Not the best odds, solid Vegas long-shot territory.
So we waited. We were fortunate enough to spend the majority at home with only a few months of hospital stay total, but it was a long wait. The funny thing is that the longer we waited the easier it got, even though that also meant I was getting sicker by the day. I always plan for the worst (shocker), but I truly never accepted death as an option. Statically it was a high probability, but as analytical as I am, it didn’t register as a real option. As much as I would like to take the credit for my resolve, in truth that will was a physical representation of the love and support from everyone. The best kind of courage is the kind you share with others.
The first week in February, 2018 a man died approximately within 500 miles of Cleveland Ohio. No amount of condolences will ever replace someone’s son, partner, husband, father or friend. He, his family or some combination of the two made a decision that changed the life of eight others in a profound way. The end of his life meant that mine (and seven others) didn’t have to end. It is strange, in equal parts calm and chaotic, to think that the most vital part of another human being is now my most vital part. I don’t even need to exaggerate, sell the story or create a reason to believe. He died and his gifts saved eight of us, his gift saved me. He gave my son a father, my wife a husband, my family a son/brother and my friends a pain in the ass. After 510 days of waiting, on February 7th, 2018 we received new life
To our treasured family, our irreplaceable friends and a company that gives me much more I could ever pay back – I am here because of you. We will spend the rest of our lives in gratitude and always in service to return the love however you may need.
To my donor, your gift of life is most precious of all. To my donor family, I know nothing can replace him – but know any good that comes of my life moving forward is because of him. The best part of him is now the best part of me, I will honor and cherish it.
Carah, I live as a testament to your unwavering love, support and compassion. I am in awe of your strength, because in many ways what you went through was far harder than what I faced. You have always been a wonderful wife, but now I don’t know how to describe you as anything other than: “genuinely, unequivocally amazing.” I love you.
Ford, you won’t understand until you are older, but I recognized how truly brave you were through it all. Your strength fills me with overwhelming confidence that you will persevere and thrive your entire life. Someday I will tell you how your strength saved my life. I love you.
Live life. Love life. Donate Life.
Honored Husband to Carah
Privileged Father to Ford
Grateful and Loyal Friend to You All
Stubborn Human Not Leaving This Planet Soon
February 16, 2019
So happy for you Robb and inspired by your strenght
February 10, 2019
Rob - I had no idea you and your family were going though this. Stay strong and I pray you get through this and live a long, healthy life in the future. God Bless!
February 10, 2018
Congrats on your new Heart Robb! Best wishes and speedy recovery.
Mary & Chuck D'Amico
August 6, 2017
Keep fighting brother, I know you can tackle this...