Heart Transplant Frank J. Martorano –
Hello my name is Frank Martorano, I relocated here to SC 4 1/2 years ago from NJ. I was the recipient of a heart transplant 2 years ago on Feb. 5, 2002 at MUSC in Charleston.
I was born in NJ and raised in Garfield, NJ. Garfield was a small blue collar town with some empty land still available, it was located approx. 8-10 miles west of NYC. Garfield had a small business section and mostly residential neighborhoods. We lived in an apartment in my grandmothers house until I was 8, my parents bought a 50 x 100 lot and built a 2 family house in the hill section of town. It was a quiet all residential area bordered by an undeveloped county park, as kids we would spend all our time playing in the fields and on the hill side. Garfield was a melting pot, of close knit and large Italian and Polish concentrations. There was a Baptist church on the top of the hill with a small African American congregation. Growing up there was typical of the 50’s, mostly everyone knew everyone else, either first hand or thru someone else. Garfield was split by railroad tracks, the hill section was affectionately known as Guinea Heights and the valley was Pollack Valley. We all lived, worked and played together without any problems. Everywhere in the city there were vegetable gardens and fruit trees. In the winter you knew an Italian house when you saw the Fig tree all tied up and covered so it wouldn’t freeze. We had our own little Italy on the hill ndtop, complete with Italian bakeries, pizzeria’s, deli’s and café’s. I was the 2 of 4 children, I have 3
sisters. I am of Italian American decent and proud of the culture. Though I don’t really speak or understand the language very much, and I don’t think of myself as the stereo typical Italian male
you see on the Soprano’s. I feel most people of my age have been Americanized by now. There were many aunts, uncles and cousins all living nearby. We all went to see my great grandmother every Sunday, she lived to 103. My Dad was a local milk man, we normally walked to school every day but he would take us to school in the milk truck when the weather was bad. He had my name on the front above the windshield. I thought I was cool riding in that truck, As a teenager having to get up at 2:30 in the morning to work on the truck changed that opinion real fast. My mom was a sewing machine operator in the garment industry, she was a collar maker for woman’s coats. She worked in a steamy factory with material lint always in the air, whenever I went there it made me itchy. We spent a lot of time at grandma’s while our parents worked. Grandma would feed us lunch and watch us after school, She tried to teach us Italian and told us stories of her youth in Palermo. We were at the lower threshold of middle class, we were poor but didn’t know it. I can only remember
a few family vacations and only one, when my Dad was able to stay with us for the whole week, he would bring us and pick us up a week later. I think because of that I tried to make sure I took the kids on a vacation every year, it was very important to me. My parents didn’t have many luxuries, but we always had food and a house. Later as an older teenager we did have air conditioning and the first color TV (RCA) in our family. We were never sure who or how many family members and friends would show up for Bonanza on a Sunday night.
I wasn’t a great student, but my Dad instilled enough fear in me so I never failed a class. I played Little League Baseball, my Dad coached, I played High school Football, my mom never came to football games. My mom suffered from migraine headaches and breathing problems including Asthma, she had multiple cases of bronchitis and pneumonia. I developed allergies and was susceptible to respiratory ailments, I developed severe Asthma in my late 30’s, but I still thinherited a strong work ethic and started delivering papers in 7 grade, thru out high school and
drafting school I worked as a helper installing storm windows, in a paint store, in a machine shop and an auto repair shop. I started my career as a draftsman in 1964 at The Bendix Corp. mostly working on defense, and Nasa projects. I was excited to be working in an office with a white collar
environment, most of my family were blue collar types. I started at $70.00 a week for 40 hours, which was less than I made at the gas station part time. So I continued to work at the station part
time. At Bendix I trained and began to create Printed Circuit board artwork. Printed circuit artwork was created using black tape and round pads to create the actual circuit pattern on clear Mylar film at a scale usually 2, 4 or 10 times larger than actual size. It is then photographically reduced to actual size and used to chemically etch the pattern on a copper clad board. Like most professions you have to move around to get ahead financially. I left Bendix after 2 ? years and worked for a consulting firm, at other defense companies, eventually working directly for Kearfott/Singer/GEC/Plessey, the same company with name changes for 30 years. I became an expert in all aspects of creating Printed circuit artwork and boards. From the early days of hand taping the patterns, through the use of the latest cutting edge technology in software, computers and Laser plotters. I also worked at Singer’s Research and Development lab, designing and
creating data to produce semi-conductor chips for 5 years, one of which was in the first Singer computerized sewing machine in the mid 70’s.
I was married at age 23 to my wife of 35 years Joanne, she would come to my Gas station with her father when she was 13 or 14 and unknown to me, decided that she was going to marry me someday. Well some 4 or 5 years and 1 engagement each later, at her cousins urging, we began dating and were married on April 26, 1969, in Joanne’s church. Joanne is of Slovak decent and
went to an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral. We purchased a 2 family home in Lodi, NJ in 1971 which is very close to the Meadowlands and Giant Stadium, it is also the home of a bar named Satin Dolls, which most people know as the Ba DA Bing Club in the Soprano’s. We lived in Lodi for 291/2 years until relocating to Murrells Inlet. I thought I was on top of the world, owning my own home. We have 2 daughters Nancy and Eileen. I became involved with a few of the church groups, I was a member of the Kitchen Gang, I was President of a Church Social Club and Treasurer of the P.P.T.A. We raised money for different charities and for the Church itself. We also volunteered to oversee and chaperone the church boys and girls basketball teams, we traveled by bus or vans, 4 or 5 adults and 30-40 boys and girls to national tournaments from NJ to as far as Detroit every year. I also saltwater fished, bowled, played softball and kept tropical fish and photography as hobbies. Both girls went to dancing school, I coached them in Little League Softball, they played Basketball and were in the school band. We supported all their activities. We were athletic supporters. We finished our entire basement in 1987, when the kids were teenagers and we needed more room, we had a really nice family room with a fireplace, wet bar, large screen TV, a computer room and a full bathroom. We were very proud and happy when it was finished. Joanne and I made full use of it for 11 years. When we sold our house I wasn’t sad at all, we had good memories and it had served us well. We were moving to SC and the sun and fun of the beach.
Nancy is now 31 and a Political Science professor at The University of Dayton in Ohio. Eileen is 28, attended NY restaurant School, to be a pastry Chef, she is a Navy wife in Virginia Beach, and mother of our 2 wonderful grand children, Nicholas 3 and Natalie 9 months. We are both extremely proud of both our daughters and son-in-law.
I have never been really healthy, I inherited Heart problems from my Dad’s family and
respiratory problems from my Mom’s family. I was never really sickly as a kid, but as a teenager I developed allergies and was a little overweight, I often had colds and even developed pneumonia once. I sometime missed school or work due to just not feeling well, headaches, nausea, tired, etc. I had a moderate heart attack when I was 36, thankfully I didn’t need surgery immediately. I initially felt depressed and sorry for myself for a short time, but then faced the facts and did what ever had to be done to rehabilitate. I pretty much was able to do what ever I wanted for the next several years. Eventually I needed quadruple bypass when I was 42, and recovered and did very
well for the next 10 years. I developed heart failure beginning at age 52-53. Heart failure in my case was the heart becoming so oversized from working so hard, that it couldn’t pump efficiently
enough to allow me to do anything exerting without being extremely short of breath, and having a tight chest, for example taking a shower and drying off sometimes required a rest in between. I was able to face these situations because of the faith I had in my doctors and family, I was never afraid of the surgeries, I saw them as a way to improve or sustain my life. I was worried about my family, and felt guilty, if I wasn’t able to provide for them. My sister is an insurance agent and wrote me a larger policy to ease my mind. I know the heart attack and surgeries were frightening for Joanne and the girls who were only in first and third grade when I had the heart attack.
Throughout most of this time period I was able to maintained the house and property myself. I was cited by the town beautification committee for the appearance of our house and property in the late spring of 1987, after having bypass surgery in March,. I have always taken great pride in the things I have, and I believe it is because I had to worked very hard to get them, and I really appreciate them.
I was put on permanent disability in 1998 and moved here in 1999 to escape the pollution, cold weather and high cost of living in NJ. I was not aware at the time that a transplant was in my near future. I felt that if I only had a limited time left, I wanted to be some where with warm, clean air, and near the beach. We had spent approx. 16 or 17 years vacationing here and had fully intended to retire here, so we just moved here 10 years early. As it turns out the move was a very important decision.
I was sent to MUSC in 2001 for evaluation for a transplant, the testing and process took several months, before I was accepted, and put on the transplant list at MUSC. They tested virtually all of my organs, my metal ability to get thru the operation, therapy, recovery and our ability financially to pay for the rejection drugs and live in Charleston for two months. I was nervous that they would not accept me, when they did I initially thought I could have waited longer, but ultimately they were right in their assessments. I think Joanne had a harder time coming to grips with it than me. I can’t describe the mixed emotions that I went thru, flip flopping back and forth. Bottom line when you are out of options and feeling bad, transplant or what ever surgery is required sounds really good. But when that phone call came, at 9:30 at night, the reality really hit me, I had instant angina pain. I had to stop and tell myself to calm down and breathe. I had the thtransplant and was in the hospital for 7 days I was released on the 8. morning. I was receiving rdphysical therapy from the 3. day, although I don’t remember the first session at all. I returned to the hospital for therapy every day for the next 7 weeks. My 58 year old body still hasn’t caught up with my 32 year old heart and I don’t think it ever will. I received a new heart after only 31/2
months on the list. The waiting time in the NY, NJ area is much longer, maybe even years. I may not have been able to live long enough to receive a transplant. I have always been a believer in fate, and I believe fate brought us here. I still suffer from the non heart ailments and some side effects of all the medications, but I tell myself and everyone who asks, it’s better than the alternative.
Through out my entire adult life, and thru all the medical ups and downs my wife Joanne has supported me 100%. She was the one who cried a little when we received bad medical news, but then put on the strong front, and did what had to be done. She sat in the waiting rooms for hours worrying, while I was asleep on the table, the one who tried to calm and reassure me, when I needed it. The one who drove to all the doctors appointments, and therapy sessions, when I wasn’t allowed to drive. Even though we always fought about the driving. Joanne, Eileen and Nicky stayed in Charleston with me and Joanne and I lived in a 1 room efficiency for 2 months. I have never been very expressive, but I have been extremely lucky to have married such a loving and faithful
wife, I don’t think there are many women who would have been able to cope with all the stresses
and crisis in my life.
Needless to say I am and feel extremely lucky and indebted to the family of my donor, I wrote them a letter to offer my condolences for their families loss and my appreciation of their gift of life. I tried to explain who I was, my family history, how I came to be here in SC, in this situation, waiting for someone to die, so I could get a transplant, what it meant to my family. That I was sad their family member had died. They have chosen not to reply, which is their right, I would like to know more about this woman, but I can understand their decision also. All I know is, I am so very thankful, to have this 32 year old woman’s heart, that has been beating for me for 2 years.
I can’t express how much this gift of life has meant to myself and my family, At 42 years old and facing quadruple bypass surgery, my heart surgeon asked what I wanted from him, I told him I had a wife and 2 little girls that needed me, that I wanted to be around to provide for them and to see them grow up. He did his part, I was able to provide for them, to see them go to college and marry and have our first grand child.
The Transplant allowed me to attend my daughter Nancy’s PHD graduation from Rice Univ., and her employment as a professor at Dayton Univ. I was also able to see my daughter Eileen and her husband Elias mature to become really great parents, and a great husband and wife. I was also able to see a 2nd grand child born and the joy they both bring us. I was also recently able to help my wife and family thru the passing of her father.
We are really happy here in Murrells Inlet, SC, we have always experienced very warm and friendly southern hospitality. We are very lucky to be able to live here, year round, where some people can only vacation for a week or two. We have also been extremely lucky to live in a neighborhood, with really good and caring neighbor’s and friends, who have helped us in many ways. When you really need help, you will find out who your true friends really are, and We now know who they are.
I have a much different perspective of the things that really matter, I am much better, about not letting things I can’t control, bother me, I don’t get all worked up, over little things, that would have made me nuts, a few years ago. I have and hope in the future to be able, to return all the favors, deeds and wonderful acts of love and compassion by my family and friends. I hope to live a long and as healthy a life as possible, I hopefully assume, my wife, daughters and family, still need and want me around, and also because, now I have 2 grand kids, that I would like to help, see grow up, go to college, marry and have kids of their own…………………….. The End
Frank Martorano Jr.