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Bloomington father, husband with CHD waits for heart transplant at Riley Hospital

Valentine’s Day is also National Donor Day
Jeff Taber
Posted at 7:47 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-21 13:57:58-05

INDIANAPOLIS – February 14th is synonymous with Valentine’s Day, but it also holds an entirely different meaning: National Donor Day.

“We see miracles every day and it’s so rewarding,” Riley Hospital for Children Pediatric Clinical Cardiac Transplant Coordinator Regina Rossetter said. She’s been with Riley for decades and full-time with the transplant team for the last two years.

Rossetter works on the heart floor at Riley alongside fellow coordinator Debbie Murphy. The two frequent 3West, where Jeff Taber is staying.

“The waiting, it’s tough because I’m away from my family,” Taber said while sitting in his room Monday. He continued, “When I first started staying here and knew that it was going to be a long stay, I was told by multiple people this is your room make it your home.”

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And he has. Home for Taber really is Bloomington, but home for now is a hospital room at Riley. Room 3125 includes an espresso maker, photos hanging on the wall, Lego sets to build for passing the time and a cross sitting above his TV.

Taber went on the heart transplant list in March of 2020.

“It was right before COVID started,” Taber said. He has built everything from cars to a mock Notre Dame out of Legos. Each new build is set on a shelf by the window to cheer up other patients who pass by.

But unlike many other patients on the floor, Taber is an adult. The 43-year-old is actually a father of eight, a husband of nearly 17 years and a chef by trade.

Taber Family

It’s not all that uncommon, though, when it comes to Congenital Heart Defect, or CHD, and transplants, for adults to stay at pediatric hospitals.

In Taber’s case, he's been treated at Riley Hospital for Children all throughout his childhood. Two of his major surgeries happened at Riley before he turned 18, he said.

CREDIT: Taber Family

“I was stable and pretty much able to live a normal childhood. I was able to play sports as long as I knew my own limits,” Taber said. As time grew on, his heart weakened and put him on the transplant list.

CHD is the most common birth defect in the United States, according to the CDC.

“There are more adults living with CHD than kids, meaning under 18 years of age. The success of the people began all of this years ago and taught me to do things. We now have millions of adults that are living with heart defects. Most are going to continue doing well, but unfortunately, some don’t,” said Dr. Robert Darragh with Riley's heart transplant team.

“And that’s where we get into the question of what’s the optimum way to take care of these people," Darragh said. "Their only real option (is) to continue living at a decent quality of life and much of that comes to the surgical expertise that’s needed."

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IU Health houses one of the largest Adult Congenital Heart Defect programs in the Midwest.

Taber is a part of the program through Riley.

“I think it’s amazing that we’re able to do this and it’s only because we have such a dedicated team here,” Murphy said.

Taber’s transplant and recovery will happen at Riley, but afterwards his follow-up care will transfer over to IU Health Methodist. Since 2007, the heart transplant team has performed heart transplants in adult patients.

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A heart could come in a matter of hours, days or months, but regardless of when it comes, Taber said he is looking towards his faith to carry him through.

“When the time happens, praying for the families, praying for all those involved and being really thankful for this gift,” Taber said.


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