Lisa McCrea says that for decades, her father had been fighting a heart condition. She said that by the 1980s, when her father was nearly 40 years old, he’d suffered his first heart attack. He’d undergone several surgeries to improve his health, including a heart valve replacement, but the long-term prognosis wasn’t good. A heart transplant would be needed.
Lisa was taking her father on long car rides to see his cardiologist — nearly nine hours round trip — back and forth to Houston, Texas from rural Louisiana. It was during those trips that Lisa would meet people in dire need of transplants of all types: heart, liver, kidney. Lisa was moved by what she saw. She knew what she needed to do next. She felt it was something God wanted her to do. Although she couldn’t give her father a heart, she knew she could donate another organ that could help save someone else’s life. What happened after that would change Lisa’s life forever. It became the worst decision she’d ever made.
Listen to the entire episode on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Here are some of the highlights.
'I felt that it was something that God wanted me to do'
Lisa McCrea: My dad is 6’5,” 250 pounds, and I’m 4’10.” I’m this little bitty thing and … (laughs) a hundred pounds soakin’ wet. So he’s always been this big strong man in my life. My hero. You know, every little girl’s daddy is her hero. And to watch him dwindle … has been the most heartbreaking thing of anything in my life. I mean, he’s still here, and I’m grateful for that. But to watch the suffering that he’s gone through. That he can’t drive anymore. All of that, it’s just heartbreaking.
And we were making trips back and forth to Houston. I was meeting all of these people who needed organs. I met one lady that needed a liver transplant. And she was always there when we were there, it never failed, just sitting out there waiting. It’s just incredibly sad. Incredibly sad. Because she was a young woman with young children. And it touched my heart so much.
They said, “There’s nothing else we can do except replace the heart.” He won’t have it done. He’s 74 years old and he says if God’s ready for him, then he’s ready for God. I was always the type of person who wanted to help people. I don’t believe I would have considered donating an organ until my dad got sick and I saw so many people suffering. And while I knew I couldn’t give my daddy a heart, I felt like I could help some of these other people. I felt that it was something that God wanted me to do, to be honest with you.
Leaving her family to go to California to donate her kidney
McCrea: The night before I was leaving for the actual donation ... I was going to be gone for 22 days. I’ve never been away from my kids that long. I went to kiss my kids goodbye, and [my son] said, “Mom, don’t go. I don’t want you to do it.” ... And I was like, “Baby, we’ve been through all the testing; we’ve done all this. Why don’t you want me to do this?” He said, “I’m scared you’re gonna die.” And that was probably the hardest moment … was right then.
How complications resulting from the transplant surgery impact her everyday life
McCrea: I essentially became a hermit. I was unable to work. The nerve damage — it’s both legs, but it’s mostly on my right leg. And driving — pushing gas pedal or break — is extremely painful. So I didn’t drive a whole lot, I was unable to work so I didn’t have anywhere to go anymore other than doctors’ appointments. …
It affected my kids because they lost the mom they had. That’s the hardest part of all of it. They lost the mom that’s jumping up and down in the stadium at the football games. One of my sons races go-karts, and I never missed a race and I never missed a football game ... My other son plays in the symphony orchestra — and all of these things were so hard for me to get to and to be at. I would have to bring a lawn seat and sit outside the stadium because I couldn’t climb in the stands anymore — I still can’t climb in the stands. I did for my son’s graduation and I’m still hurting from it. I went from being someone that would ride on the four-wheeler and ride all over the place to being someone that was barely able to get out to the chicken pen … let alone get to the four-wheelers. But my kids lost the momma that they had, and that’s the most hurtful part of all of it.
These interview highlights have been edited for brevity and clarity by Joe DeCeault.