Life in the Wake of Loss: Generous Donation Gives One Man a Second Chance After 'Widow-Maker' Heart Attack

Apr 24, 2014, 15:36 ET from Kaiser Permanente

OAKLAND, Calif., April 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Organ donation.  It's a topic that usually comes up only under the most dire circumstances. When we consider, however, that just one donor has the potential to save the lives of eight people — and enhance the lives of 100 more — stories of lives changed by organ donation seem that much more important to share.

Bob's story
For more than 50 years, Bob Maggiore has found solace in time spent with family and on the golf course among friends.

Bob was washing up from an afternoon of golf when he broke into a cold sweat and felt nauseous. He was able to call for help just before the world went black.

When Bob woke up three days later in the cardiac unit of Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center, he learned he had survived a massive heart attack. "A widow-maker," he called it. "I shouldn't have lived."

Bob's heart attack was the beginning of a five-year battle with failing health that would have taken him from his wife, children and grandchildren, had it not been for an organ donor, whose heart now beats in Bob's chest.

According to Juan Alvergue, MD, a cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente's San Marcos Medical Offices, more than 120,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ at any given time.

"Sadly, about 6,500 patients die each year because they didn't get their organ in time," he explained. "That's 18 patients each day."

Organ recipients undergo rigorous physical and mental health exams before their name is added to the organ donation waiting list. Often, those added to the waiting list will not survive without an organ transplant at some point in their lives.

Bob is eternally grateful to the organ donor who gave him a second chance to grow old with his family. "If I could speak to him, I would tell him, 'Thank you for the gift of life,' " he said. "Thanks to him, I've been able to enjoy much more time with my wonderful wife, two children, and five grandchildren whom I love dearly."

The decision whether to become an organ donor is highly personal, and misconceptions can often cloud the facts.

Facts about organ donation:

  • Anyone can be a donor. Whether a person becomes a donor is a personal decision, but not one that is affected by physical health.
  • Becoming an organ donor is easy. You can register on your state's DMV website, or at
  • If you're on the donor registry, you will get the life-saving care you need, when you need it. You won't be denied care in order to obtain your organs. State laws and emergency medical practices ensure that your life comes first. The medical staff who take care of you are completely separate from the organ donation system. Only when a donor has died does a medical team contact the organ donation network to arrange a donation.
  • Donors' bodies are treated with care, dignity and respect. It is possible to have an open casket funeral if you're an organ donor.

You can find more information about organ donation on

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America's leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve approximately 9.1 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to:

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SOURCE Kaiser Permanente