Unprepared for the news, Hoshour immediately got upset. “He remained hopeful that this would be far, far away, not happening right then and there,” Dr. Sobol says. “What I told him was that everything up to now was just a bandage on a broken leg — it was not going to change his trajectory, but a heart transplant would. I said, ‘Bob — you will get your life back.’”
It was those last few words that finally made it click. “To have one or two more years made no difference to me, so to hear ‘You will get your life back,’ meant so much, because that’s all I was interested in,” Hoshour says. He admitted himself into the hospital but, not one to sit idly by, he made it a point to spend his days out of bed. He took hours-long walks around the wing, thanking all the nurses, orderlies and other staff members that helped him every day. And he made it a point to greet other patients and their families to bring a little brightness to their day.
After a few weeks, the day after Father’s Day in 2019, he got the call. “The voice on the other end said, ‘I’d like to offer you a heart. It’s a good heart. Do you want to accept it?’” Hoshour recalls. “And I said, ‘Yes, I am ready to accept this.’”
The next morning, Hoshour was in surgery. Within a few days, he was able to resume his walks around the hospital. Within 10 days, he was discharged, and within a few weeks, “you could not have stopped me,” Hoshour says. The October after his transplant, he participated in a 25-mile charity bike ride, and several months after that, he took a trip with his family to Arizona to hike the Tom’s Thumb trail in the McDowell Mountains.
Paying It Forward With a Full Life
These days, Hoshour continues his active lifestyle, which now includes spreading awareness about organ transplants and donation. He shares his story for advocacy groups and periodically visits the transplant support group. But mostly he lives his life to the fullest in gratitude for the heart he affectionately calls “Babe.”
“What I have been given back is amazing,” Hoshour says. “Anything I want to do now, I can do, because of this gift from a donor who decided to pay it forward and allow this transformation to happen.”
While Hoshour no longer sees Dr. Sobol as a patient, he continues to email her photos of himself on his latest adventure, whether that’s climbing a mountain or giving a motivational speech. In all their correspondence, he addresses her as “Dr. Tender Heart,” the nickname he bestowed on her years ago when he was still struggling with the idea of a heart transplant.
“He would break down crying, and I would hug him and tear up, and he would say, ‘Ah, so you are Dr. Tender Heart.’ The nickname is really a testament to the special relationship we form with our patients that can last for years,” says Dr. Sobol, who is part of the newly expanded team at the heart transplant program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “The best part about being a heart failure doctor is seeing our patients get better. They always ask me about life after transplant, ‘Will I be able to do this, can I do X, Y, Z again?’ And very often, my answer is, ‘The sky is the limit.’”