Thanksgiving is a special time for Oscar Sainz.
Roughly eight years ago, the 57-year-old Burbank resident spent his Thanksgiving in Spokane Valley waiting for a transplant.
Sainz started getting sick shortly before his 40th birthday in 2000. Breathing became difficult. Doctors treated him for bronchitis and allergies, but his condition wasn’t improving.
“It becomes difficult to eat or sleep or concentrate,” he said. “Then there was a cough. It was a constant cough.”
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When medical personnel performed a electrocardiogram and an X-ray, they discovered the cause of Sainz’s mysterious illness — congestive heart failure.
He was sent to Sacred Heart Medical Center. They removed fluid from his lungs and started him on a treatment program.
At the time, the doctors told him a transplant may be in his future, but they were able to treat the condition. They prescribed medication and sent him home with orders to rest until he could regain his strength.
His condition improved, but, by the summer of 2008, the drugs Sainz was taking started to become ineffective. Doctors installed a left ventricular assist device to help circulate his blood. The device ran on batteries during the day, and he would plug it in to recharge at night.
The device relieved the workload on Sainz’s heart, but he still needed a transplant, according to LifeCenter Northwest.
“For the first two months, they wanted me to recover from that procedure, then I was on the waiting list for a transplant,” he said.
He moved to Spokane Valley with his mother in November 2008 to wait for a new heart, he said.
“Your life gets put on hold. I was on medical leave. It’s a tough thing to deal with. You have all of these concerns and what ifs ... I was up there over the winter.”
The transplant initially weighed heavily on him, because he thought saving his life was going to cost someone their life, but a family member pointed out the donor agreed to give their organ to save someone else’s life.
Sainz received his new heart in May 2009, and began the recovery process. He became physically active again, after his initial recovery and rehabilitation.
Now, seven-and-a-half years later, Sainz wants to make sure he pays the proper respect to the gift someone had given him.
He’s an advocate for donation through LifeCenter Northwest.
He speaks to groups about the process and his experiences as a way to educate people about donation.
“It has given me the opportunity to work with other recipients and donor families,” he said. “It helps the donor families when they see that I’m active and I’m responsible that helps their healing process.”