John Knox, 71, born and raised in South Florida, has had a love for the water and surfing since he was 12 years old. “I was in a surf club called The Greenback Surf Club for 53 years,” said John. “Those guys have been like my brothers. We traveled everywhere together, including Hawaii.”” Even though John was staying active with his surfing, he knew he had some health concerns. “I went to the doctor to figure out what was going on,” said John. The doctor had diagnosed him with asthma and he was on an inhaler and medication for about a year. Things weren’t getting better. “I got to the point where I went 4 to 5 days without sleeping,” said John. “I felt like I was drowning and I was getting depressed.” John decided to go to the hospital and told the doctor his asthma was getting out of control. “The doctor checked me out and told me I didn’t have asthma,” said John “I was experiencing congestive heart failure.”

He was given heart medication for about eight years and continued to manage his heart condition. John and his wife moved to Knoxville, TN in July 2021 and that’s when his health started spiraling. “I couldn’t even walk 10 feet without getting out of breath,” said John. He was rushed to the ER at Tennova in Knoxville. The cardiologist at Tennova’s ER knew the LVAD director at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West, Dr. Don Chomsky. “It was such a wild thing,” said John. “ Dr. Chomsky only goes to Tennova 1 day every 2 weeks and he happened to be there at the same time I needed immediate attention.” Dr. Chomsky told John they were going to get him a new heart. “They told me to pack my bags and get to Nashville as soon as we could,” said John.

“When I arrived at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West, I was evaluated for 4 days. The team of doctors informed me that I wouldn’t last if I was put on a transplant list and decided to set me up with a Left Ventricular Assist Device
(LVAD). The LVAD allowed me to get stronger and physically fit so I could be healthy enough to receive a heart transplant.” John lived with his LVAD for 5 months. He gained enough strength and was put on the heart transplant list on January 10th, 2022. Just ten days later, they had a heart. “I was shocked,” said John. “I had the mindset that it would take months to find a new heart. Everything just fell into place.” On January 21, 2022, Dr. Ashok Babu, cardiothoracic surgeon at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West, performed John’s heart transplant.

“I just had a fantastic experience at Ascension,” said John. “I felt like a family member to them. I know that if I didn’t meet Dr. Chomsky at the ER in Knoxville, I wouldn’t have a new heart.” After the third day, John had zero pain. He recently received the news that there has been no rejection with his new heart. “I never thought at 71 that I would be a candidate for a new heart,” said John. “I am still in disbelief. God was on my shoulder the whole way. I feel like I have a 2nd chance at life.”