TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - More than 118 thousand people in the U.S. are waiting on organ transplants. This time last year, Byron Clark was one of them.
Trying to live with just 10 percent heart function, Byron couldn't tie his shoes or get up from the couch without getting extremely dizzy. He endured countless trips to the hospital, and in 2014, he went to the emergency room with shortness of breath. He was given a very grim prognosis.
"Because when the doctor came in and said, 'if you don't do this, you've got about 6 months,' that's really sobering," Byron said. "It was hard to take, you know, I didn't show it to my wife and my kids, but that was very hard to take. Knowing that life could be over for me, at a young age, very soon."
Byron's congestive heart failure started with a common virus, possibly strep throat, that made its way to his heart.
Doctors were able to keep him alive longer with a mechanical heart pump placed inside his chest. Family members say Byron was never able to walk around without being connected to it.
But Byron and his wife of 38 years, Debbie Clark, kept hoping that he would be one of the lucky ones to get a new heart that was a match.
The device kept Byron alive, but he was tethered to a machine, and his energy was still low but his hopes were high.
"Wasn't feeling as good as I do now. But like I said it was keeping me alive, and I knew that one day that a transplant might come my way. And that was the goal," Byron said.
A whole community of people were supporting Byron.
"You know, God brought the right people into our lives that we needed at the time. Other transplant recipients, giving hope and encouragement," Debbie said. "The people that really, really helped us get through the emotion, going through the process was Life Connections."
It was nearly two years of waiting on the national transplant list for a heart. Then just a couple months after Debbie and Byron appeared on the Green chair with WTOL last April, to encourage more people to become organ donors, they got the call they were praying for.
Debbie was overwhelmed with excitement and joy when she received the good news.
"I'm trying to drive. Cry, drive and he's just an emotional basket-case at that point. Tears of joy, you know, tears of gratefulness," Debbie explained.
What a remarkable day it was. On June 23, the same day Byron received a new heart, his youngest grandson was born. In December, he was cleared to travel and got the chance to go out and see him.
"That's what that gift is to me. It was a gift that I could see my youngest grandson," said Byron.
Now, the Clarks are paying it forward. They started a non profit dedicated to covering medical expenses for other people waiting for, and getting, a life-saving transplant.
A second chance is what Debbie is most grateful for.
"We're both grateful, he's got a second lease on life. We have a second lease on life together, as a couple and a family."