currents

Change of heart

Bob Hoshour, Babe and a transformed life

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 7/1/20

BARRYVILLE, NY — “I thought I had the stomach flu,” Bob Hoshour says.

It was 2017, and he and his wife, Dr. Jenise Parris, were at their Barryville house. He’d been tired. …

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currents

Change of heart

Bob Hoshour, Babe and a transformed life

Posted

BARRYVILLE, NY — “I thought I had the stomach flu,” Bob Hoshour says.

It was 2017, and he and his wife, Dr. Jenise Parris, were at their Barryville house. He’d been tired. Then he threw up. He’d had two fried eggs... maybe it was the eggs? Something wasn’t right.

Hoshour was an actor and dancer—he played Tumblebrutus in the original Broadway production of “Cats”—and followed that up with a career in fitness facility design. “I was always very healthy,” he said. Being physically active was a significant part of his life and this was not normal. But he waited until they went back to New York City before he sought care.

“In truth, I should not have survived that weekend,” he says now.

He ended up at Weill Cornell, under the care of Dr. Irena Sobol. It turned out he had an “unusual arrhythmia, on the right,” he said. And that qualified him for the heart transplant list.

Agreeing to be put on the list was the first step in his new life.

The list

Saying yes is important. You’re agreeing to live. You’re choosing not to die. And if you have a donor heart, or any other donated organ, you are taking on responsibility for this immense gift.

LiveOnNY is the federally designated organ procurement organization (OPO) for the greater New York City area, including part of Pennsylvania. They advocate for people on the transplant list, facilitate organ donations and care for donor families.

Bob Hoshour connected with them when it was time to go on the list; he can’t speak highly enough of the organization.

People wait four to nine months to be “partnered” with a new heart. It all depends on how sick you are and how many donors there are. The numbers aren’t great: Although nationally 58 percent of people aged 16 and up are registered organ donors, in New York it’s more like 35 percent, and in Pennsylvania, it’s 48 percent.

So, Hoshour waited. He was lucky; his health was okay, relatively speaking. But after six months, he was slower. He used to bike around the city, “but no more.” After a while, even walking wasn’t comfortable.

In the spring of 2019, the doctors ran out of non-surgical tools to keep him going. It was time.

“I checked into the hospital, not knowing if it was going to be two weeks or four months,” he said.

Babe

Babe came into his life in June of 2019.

Hoshour knows nothing about the donor. He wrote a letter to the anonymous donor family, via LiveOnNY, after the transplant, expressing his profound gratitude, but didn’t hear back. That wasn’t surprising. Someone died to give him Babe. “When I received Babe, someone was grieving.

“This is someone’s baby,” he says now, voice hitching, the emotion audible. “Do I deserve this? I am doing everything right and taking care of Babe.”

And thus did Hoshour’s life change.

“I’ve never been averse to risks, and a year ago I chose to live.”

To live is to embrace our shared humanity. Around him, Hoshour sees people who are lost, and he reaches out. “Look people in the eye,” he says. “Tell them you’re present, you’re there with them.”

Sometimes life is about being uncomfortable, sometimes it’s about pain.

Sometimes the greatest gift we can give is to sit with someone who is suffering and look them in the eye.

Hoshour learned about pain from his experience, and he learned about gratitude.

“By not knowing anything specific about Babe, Babe becomes universal,” he said. He is deeply serious. “Babe is Black, Babe is gay, Babe is trans.” It doesn’t matter, and it all matters. “I want to thank the world.”

Because Babe, whoever Babe was, signed that donor card and gave him life.

Interested in learning more about organ donation? Contact LiveOnNY at 646/291-4444 or visit www.liveonny.org.

Organ donor statistics

According to Donorrecovery.org, 35 percent of New Yorkers aged 16 and up have registered (nationally, it’s 58 percent) and one donor can save up to eight lives.

Donatelifepa.org says that the numbers are only marginally better in PA: 48 percent are registered organ donors.

According to the national department of Health and Human Services, in New York, 328 people are waiting for a heart transplant and 7,867 waiting for a kidney. In Pennsylvania, 141 are waiting for a heart and 6,187 are waiting for a kidney.

What just one donor can do:

Just one donor can make a significant difference in the lives of many other people in need. That’s why it is so important for everyone to sign up to be a potential donor. Remember, you have the power to save lives.

One donor can:

  • Save up to eight lives and help improve the quality of life of more than 75 people
  • Free two people from dialysis treatments
  • Save the lives of patients awaiting heart, liver, lung or pancreas transplants
  • Give sight to two people
  • Repair injured joints or help save an arm or leg threatened by cancer or other illness
  • Help burn victims heal more quickly

www.donatelifepa.org 

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Jonathan Fox

This story is so incredibly well done!

Thursday, July 2