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Heart to heart! Couple nursed each other back to health after respective cardiac transplants

A couple had the unique experience of nursing one another back to health after respective cardiac transplants.

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Jim and Kaye Donovan celebrated making it through two of the toughest periods in their lives: When each underwent a heart transplant.

The pair have been married for nearly two decades but have been in each other's lives for three.

"We are both thankful and lucky. We both got transplants," Jim said. "It is a miracle of life. It really is."

Kaye explained that they were friends for a time and have been together on and off for 30 years.

Then Jim was told he needed a heart transplant.

"I was tired all the time. I did not want to get up and do anything," he said. "She kind of pulled me through a little bit in the hard times."

His heart was about three times the normal size. But, as it turns out, so was Kaye’s.

A few years later, Jim was able to pay it forward and help her through the transplant process.

"You get up in the morning and you think, 'I'm gonna do this and this,'" she said. "And then you sit down, you think, ‘Oh my God, I can’t do it.’"

What’s even stranger? The surgeries were done by the same heart specialist at the same hospital.

"It’s really unusual, of course, to ever have a heart transplant, period. But in an even more unusual situation, both of them ended up getting that enough that they ended up with heart transplantations," Dr. John Chin, of Sutter Medical Center's Heart Transplant Program, said. "Obviously, not planned, not genetic, not related in that sense."

Since the transplants, Jim said the two have gotten their "fighting spirit" back.

The duo decided to dedicate a tree of life at the medical center, with Dr. Chin noting that the tree is "symbolic of new life, new beginnings."

For Kaye, it was important to honor the families who made the transplants possible.

"It’s just a great representation of the donors because they are strong," she said. "They are guardian angels, for sure."


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