It was like lightening striking twice. Harrison's heart failed. Doctors thought a viral infection might be responsible. But whatever the cause, the previously healthy grandfather suddenly needed a heart transplant.
A few years earlier, Harrison had seen his granddaughter Cheyenne Arnold, sustain heart damage after a viral infection. Cheyenne had a heart transplant at age four at St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Harrison had always been active, healthy and strong. He lifted weight for years. He regularly babysat for his 11 grandchildren. Riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles had been a lifelong passion. But heart failure robbed him of energy. As he waited for a new heart, he relied on the Washington University heart failure program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital to help him make it to transplant.
The heart failure program is among the largest in the world. Washington University heart failure specialists care for patients waiting for transplantation and those for whom transplantation is not an option. The unequaled commitment and passion of this team have helped advance the treatment of heart failure, ensuring that many seriously ill patients experience a successful heart transplant. Upon entering the program, patients undergo a comprehensive evaluation. Each patient is assigned a heart failure nurse coordinator who facilitates 24-hour-a-day communication before and after transplant. A full spectrum of cardiac care is available around the clock to support patients before and during every phase of heart transplant.
In September 2002, Harrison was called to Barnes-Jewish to receive a donor heart. Within weeks, he was back to most of his normal activities.
In December 2005, Harrison and Cheyenne, now a healthy, bubbly nine-year-old, helped Barnes-Jewish celebrate the 20th anniversary of its heart transplant program by lighting candles to honor the organ donors and transplant staff who gave them a second chance at life.
In August 2006, they participated in Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's Hospitals' Transplant Awareness Day at the Ballpark, an event that spreads the word about the success of organ transplant and the need for donors.
Harrison credits his granddaughter's strength and courage with helping him survive. "She is my heart," he said.