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Heart transplant patient pushes himself to walk daughter down the aisle

'I don’t think a lot of people could go through what you went through,' Sierra Adkins told her dad.
Jason Haddix and Daughter Sierra
Posted at 6:34 PM, Nov 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-09 19:17:50-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Life is precious and nothing reaffirms that more than possibly losing your own life.

That’s why this one Hoosier and his daughter are sharing their story. It’s about a man’s second chance, thanks to a stranger and the team, at IU Health.

Meaningful conversations happen over little steps to recovery here at the COLTT outpatient rehab clinic at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

Jason Haddix loses his breath, a little, after working out with Clinical Specialist Physical Therapist Christy Diperna. He’s got a long medical history.

Haddix is used to helping others; not needing the help himself.

Haddix said he was a firefighter-paramedic in Ohio when doctors diagnosed him with fluid backup in his heart.

"They don’t know what caused it," Haddix said. "I was having some trouble breathing.”

He said he came to Indy in 2007 "for a job, as a M.R.I. technician.”

He worked there until 2014, but he eventually needed a pacemaker, which meant he had to pivot jobs again.

“Pacemakers and MRI magnets are not compatible,” said Haddix.

So, he found a third career as a 911 dispatcher.

For each job change, Haddix chose an industry that serves the community.

"It all stems from when I was five, I had lung cancer, so growing up," Haddix said. "I’ve had some many people help me get to where I’m at now. That it’s just kind of ingrained in me."

In March, he was hospitalized and stayed for months until he could get a new heart.

"It’s surreal," said his daughter Sierra Adkins. She was by his side through the entire process.

Her father’s very special to her and her wedding approached — but good news raced around the corner.

“(I'm) thinking what like you looked like, you know, in the hospital bed, so sick," Adkins said with tears in her eyes. “I was going to have my ceremony in his hospital room, so that he could be there."

Haddix found out her was getting a new heart on July Fourth. He had the surgery the next day.

"It was unreal," he said.

He was officially discharged, on August 2. The next mission was to build the strength to walk his daughter down the aisle.

Adkins recalled her dad's time in physical therapy.

"Watching him just become so strong and hardworking, and you never lost faith," she told her dad. "That was just very inspiring and I don’t think a lot of people could go through what you went through and still be as vibrant and as fun as you are."

He trained five days a week with Diperna and team, to build his new heart's stamina before his daughter's wedding day.

"Jason from the very beginning was determined," Diperna, physical therapist, said."All the staff in here in the COLTT program needed to be on board with his timeline."

Diperna said Haddix pushed himself hard to meet his deadline.

“(Haddix) he was like, I just need a minute. No, I’m not done, I’m not done, I just need a minute and then we’ll be ready to go again.” Diperna said. "There’s one day where the light bulb just goes on for the patient. You can see it in their face and you know they’re not disabled anymore. It’s like 'yes' we’re almost done here."

After about four weeks of therapy, Haddix rehabbed enough. He was strong enough to walk his daughter down the aisle.

"You definitely pushed yourself very hard to be able to walk me down the aisle," Adkins said. "T\hat’s what we worked for and I, you know I still tear up just thinking about it."

She said it’s the little things, like registering as an organ donor, that save lives of a father, husband and public servant.

"Somebody who was willing to be a donor saved his life and was able to be able to be a part of, you know, the rest of our lives and such a special day for me," Adkins said.

She urges everyone to "be a donor."

Diperna said it takes about one year until you feel normal after a big organ transplant, but Haddix said he feels good right now.

If you want to be an organ donor you can do so, through the Indiana Donor Network. Currently, 4.2 million Hoosiers are registered. You can call them 24/7 at (888) 275-4676.

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