A powerful plan for solving the donor-heart shortage: “an Evening from the Heart” brought together six donor-heart recipients and the men who made the transplants possible – Open Forum

Cory SerVaas

Rich DeVos is chair of the speakers bureau for the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a nonprofit organization that operates the nation’s 24-hour computerized organ-sharing system and works to increase organ donation. And who better to further this cause?

He survived a near-miraculous heart transplant in 1997. He is probably the preeminent motivational speaker in the country, having built a billion-dollar industry with his genius and humor. He’s blessed with a unique ability to touch people’s hearts.

If “funny is money,” as the Madison Avenue advertising pundits say, then Rich DeVos has proved their point. Half of everything he says is funny, yet also incredibly wise. His letters are brief and often handwritten.

He wrote such a letter to us recently. It carries a powerful plan for helping the organs-for-transplant shortage. His letter came with his return of Dr. Doug and Joan Zipes’ incredible novel about stolen hearts that we had given him to read. DeVos wrote:

Dear Beurt and Cory,

I am sending this book back to you. I have really enjoyed it very much. Of course, as a heart transplant recipient, I found it especially interesting.

I loved the theme and the challenges.

As you know, I am working on ways to get more organ donors.

Our plan is simple.

First, make the donor the donor. When a person signs a witnessed request to be a donor, that’s it. I would hope that individuals would do that when they enter high school, get a driver’s license or a job, buy insurance, etc. The present deal of signing a driver’s license means nothing.

Second, when they sign, they get a gift of $10,000 to be given to the beneficiary of their choice when the organs are used. It is an incentive to sign up; there is no cost to them. A true gift. Not buying organs.

The money could come from insurance companies or be added to the bill at the time of organ removal.

Maybe we should do a story on this plan.

Love ya, Rich

The Post plans to interview Rich DeVos and his cardiologist colleagues about how they intend to implement this plan. We were pleased to learn that Rich had become acquainted with our good friend, Dr. Mehmet Oz.

We had published pictures and a story on Dr. Mehmet Oz and his ideas for obtaining more organs for transplant. When he sent us an invitation to a dinner–“An Evening from the Heart” in Palm Beach, featuring innovations in heart transplants–we went.

Who should be cosponsor of the event but Rich DeVos, who introduced Dr. Oz at the ceremony. We would expect the two to collaborate, but we were impressed by the grand affair.

We had invited Dr. Doug and Joan Zipes to join us in Palm Beach, but they had to be out of the country at the time. We wanted to “connect the dots.” Dr. and Mrs. Zipes wrote a compelling fiction that deals with stolen hearts for transplant. We brought their novel to Palm Beach for Rich and Dr. Oz to read. Mehmet suggested his own New York publisher for the book. (See page 44 for excerpts.)

We were fortunate. Rich took time to read the manuscript and came forth with what we believe is a breakthrough method to get hearts and other organs for those who wait.

We are interviewing members of the 40-member board of UNOS to learn more about their upcoming meetings to discuss a test of the plan that Rich DeVos outlined in his letter.

We urge members of the Saturday Evening Post Society and subscribers to Medical Update to let us know how they might further the plan. Contact us by fax: 317-637-4630; e-mail: cservaasmd@aol.com; or write to 1100 Waterway Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202.

A jovial and dynamic duo, Rich DeVos, whose heart was donated by a 37-year-old woman, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, a renowned heart-transplant surgeon, cochaired “An Evening from the Heart” in Palm Beach. They are developing brilliant new strategies to help increase the supply of donor hearts.

When veteran sportscaster Curt Gowdy asked Rich DeVos why he wanted to sell the Orlando Magic, it gave DeVos pause. Then and there, DeVos changed his mind and decided not to sell the Magic. “With a woman’s heart,” he quipped, “I’m entitled to change my mind.” Curt’s daughter, Cheryl, produced the extravaganza.

The women were duly credited for staunchly supporting the six men at the event who underwent heart transplant. Helen DeVos and husband appreciated the attention given to women in the heart-transplant effort. At the dinner, we learned that while only 20 percent of women receive donor hearts, they represent by far the greatest percentage of heart donors. Rich told of meeting his heart donor in the hospital hall as they both recuperated. “You have my heart,” she said, and they shared a big hug. She received a heart/lung transplant to replace diseased lungs, which enabled Rich to receive her vital heart. “Now that my 37-year-old female heart is 43,” DeVos said, “I’m expecting hot flashes any day.”

Guests enjoyed the “Unforgettable” sounds of the event provided by Natalie Cole, the popular recording artist and daughter of Nat King Cole. Newlywed Cole was joined by her husband, Bishop Kenneth Dupree.

Hero of the 1957 World Series, Frank Torre knows the challenges of the heart-transplant process and the despair of knowing you could die without a healthy donor heart. Dr. Oz transplanted Torre’s heart in 1996. Dr. Oz used a left ventricular assist device to keep Torre alive until a donor heart was found. Torre is one of 1,200 heart transplant recipients from Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.


COPYRIGHT 2002 Saturday Evening Post Society

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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