Fr. Aloysius Thumma has a plenty of love, but what he didn’t have until recently was a good heart. That all changed on the evening of January 25, when Fr. Thumma received a heart transplant.
“As I kept aging, my heart became very weak,” said 60-year old Fr. Thumma, a soft-spoken vicar at Our Lady of the Assumption Church.
The events leading to the transplant started in 1999 when Fr. Thumma suffered a heart attack that weakened his life-sustaining organ. It also brought about chronic respiratory problems. A defribrillator was subsequently installed to prevent heart failure. Twelve years later, in November 2011, Fr. Thumma breathing with differculty. After visiting the Sisters Servants of Mary convent before saying Mass one Sunday, he was placed in the infirmary. Two days later, his condition worsened.
Worried about his failing health, Fr. Thumma was taken to New York Westchester Square Medical Center.
“The doctors said, ‘your heart cannot support you anymore’,” said Fr. Thumma.
After the diagnosis, Fr. Thumma was transferred to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital where he was placed on a waiting list for transplant patients. He settled into the hospital where he would get daily visits from Mother Silvia Juarez and Sister Theresa Broglio, bringing an assortment of healthy foods and a reminder that God was on his side.
“We read the Bible every day,” said Fr. Thumma.
Ten weeks passed and Fr. Thumma received word that a heart would arrive within a matter of hours. That was the same day he would go under the knife. And despite the complicated surgery that laid before him, Fr. Thumma said he relied on his strong belief that his life would not be over.
“The doctors asked, ‘are you nervous?’, I said ‘no, I’m excited,’” said Fr. Thumma. “The reason is this–if I’m successful in the operating table my pain and suffering will end. In case it was not successful and I die, life has not ended. Death never scared me.”
For six hours the hospital’s Transplant Team, comprised of five doctors and nine nurses, completed the replacement procedure. When Fr. Thumma woke up again, his respiratory condition instantly subsided, but his love of God grew as strong as his new heart.
“My appeal to Him became more intense,” said Fr. Thumma.
Little is known about the organ donor except it came from a 25-year old from Cincinatti, IA. The organ was flown to New York within a span of three hours. Ten hours later, it was placed inside Fr. Thumma’s chest.
“I think about that person who died, but at the same time they’re alive in me,” said Fr. Thumma.
With the procedure behind him, Fr. Thumma has now resumed his day-to-day activities, except he has an extra spring to his step. He walks more and eats healthier. He’s once again doing God’s work, but he’s also taken on the work of an advocate for organ donation.
He will chronicle his life-changing experience at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday, April 14, as part of the Catholic Church’s celebration of Organ Donation Month.
As a show of gratitude, Fr. Thumma plans to donate his all his organs when the Almighty comes knocking at his door.
To reach reporter David Cruz, please call 718-742-3383 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.