Many in our church family have been interceding in prayer for Pastor Patrick Garcia’s father, Dr. Dan Garcia. The article from the Southeast Outlook on March 24 tells the inspiring story of Patrick’s father and the great news about the outcome of his recent heart transplantation surgery. It is an incredible testimony of answered prayer.
We ‘rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.’ [Romans 12:15] KI
Easter is a time when Christians celebrate the promise of new life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The message of new life was never clearer to anyone than it is to the Garcia family. On Jan. 24, after 5 ½ years of waiting, Dr. Dan Garcia, 68, received a heart transplant and a new lease on life.
In a recent sermon, Garcia’s son Patrick, a pastor at Crossroads Christian Church in Newburgh, Indiana, summarized his father’s journey.
“For my dad to live, somebody had to die. He now has a second chance at life, but it’s come at a really costly price. The Bible tells us everyone is in need of a transplant. Not necessarily a physical one, but a spiritual one … The solution to our deepest, greatest need won’t come through making more money, having a greater intellect, moving up the corporate ladder or even electing the right candidate in November. No, if our brokenness is our biggest issue, then our greatest need is to be forgiven, redeemed and restored. Only Jesus can offer that.”
A long journey
Five-and-a-half years is a long time to wait for a new heart—especially when Dr. Dan Garcia had already been rejected by two transplant programs, suffered health scares and watched his life expectancy shorten.
Rather than letting his struggle with heart disease dictate his life, he used those years learning how to trust God.
“As a Christian, you never lose,” Dr. Dan told everybody who asked him about his health and offered prayer.
Constant exposure to germs forced the physician to switch specialties from pediatrics to allergy/immunology, but he continued to try to live other facets of his life as usual. He and his wife Rita continued to meet with their small group at Southeast Christian Church, attend weekly worship services, enjoy time with grandchildren and encourage mission ministry in Alamar, Cuba, a mission field he helped open in the 1990s.
In 2010, doctors propped up Dr. Dan’s failing heart with a ventricular assist device that would help pump blood until a donor heart was found. But the temporary fix became more permanent as one year turned into two, then four, then five.
Daniel Garcia, Dr. Dan and Rita’s oldest son, said it was hard to see his dad tired all the time.
“Dad was always optimistic even though he was hooked up to batteries, wires and tubes,” he said. “We watched him struggle for so many years.”
A dire situation
On Jan. 7, the transplant team at the University of Louisville told Dan he no longer was healthy enough for transplant surgery and suggested living as long as possible with the ventricular assist device. He already had been turned down as a candidate for a heart transplant at Vanderbilt University.
None of it was good news. Dr. Dan’s feet were swollen from poor circulation, and they were constantly cold. He often was tired and breathless.
Tests showed his heart was pumping at just 8 to 15 percent of the normal rate.
The Garcias were still processing being rejected by U of L for a heart transplant when a friend encouraged them to go to the University of Kentucky for an evaluation.
They had little hope he would be accepted when they finally made the appointment in Lexington.
“All through this journey, when I’d get discouraged, the Lord would put someone in my path to cheer me up,” Dr. Dan said. “A year ago, I met a patient who had a heart transplant 23 years ago, is still working and playing golf three times a week. Then, when it seemed other doors closed, the friend of a patient encouraged me to talk with the team at the University of Kentucky.”
In the end, there were no choices.
That, says Rita, is additional evidence of God’s leading.
Dr. Dan was at the University of Kentucky getting a routine checkup on his ventricular assist device when the technician found fractured wires in the electrical system.
The device could not be fixed, and it was determined that he would need surgery to have it replaced. He was sent home with a special lead wire so the device would not short out. Meanwhile, his name was moved up the heart transplant list.
The phone call for which the Garcia family had waited and prayed came eight days later. A heart had been donated and was being prepared for Dr. Dan.
He came through the surgery without complication. In the surgical waiting room, the doctor told the family, “Your dad doesn’t have a bad heart anymore. He no longer has heart disease!”
Dr. Dan walked down the hall on Day 3. He left the hospital on Day 17.
His family rejoiced over a remarkable recovery.
“We are melting with praise to the One who provides the way to cross from death to life,” said Dr. Dan and Rita’s daughter, Mary Julia Kiser. “We celebrate Him and continue to be struck by the power of prayer, the generous gift of life and the awesome greatness of our God.”
Dr. Dan joked that his only worry now is catching a virus from his computer.
He is walking, driving and looking forward to getting back to work. Though he cannot go on an international mission trip for at least a year, he longs to return to Cuba to visit with so many in the Alamar Church who have prayed for him.