Broken Arrow man is grateful for new heart

Tim Dobbs received a heart transplant in February at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
By Sarah Lobban, For The Oklahoman Modified: March 7, 2014 at 5:26 pm •  Published: March 8, 2014
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Tim Dobbs speaks about himself as if he’s nothing special. He’s 54, lives in Broken Arrow, attends church and worked for an IT company for 26 years.

His eyes light up when he talks about his family, especially his grandchildren. He looks happy and healthy. One might never suspect that just a month ago, neither was true.

On Feb. 25, Dobbs received a new heart at Integris Baptist Medical Center. The transplant was a turning point in Dobbs’ life and a milestone for the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute. Dobbs is the 500th person to receive a heart transplant there.

The first Oklahoma heart transplant was performed by Dr. Nazih Zuhdi in 1985, 29 years ago almost to the day of Dobbs’ surgery. To commemorate the event, Integris staff presented Dobbs a red heart-shaped pillow with “500” written on it.

To Dobbs, the number isn’t important. What matters to him is the steady, rhythmic beating the keepsake represents.

“The whole staff here is just wonderful,” he said. “Thanks to them, I hope I’ll be able to get back to a somewhat normal life. I’ve got two little grandkids, and I couldn’t play with them or anything until now. I’ll be able to pick them up and have fun again.”

Hayden Scanlon already has plans for his grandfather. Written on the pillow, in an 8-year-old’s handwriting, is the message, “Get well soon so that we can go camping.”

Long road

It will be one camping trip that is well-deserved and long overdue. Dobbs has had eight heart attacks since 2001. The most recent, in October, put him in a coma. When he woke up, doctors informed him his heart had deteriorated irreparably.

“The doctor told me, ‘You’re going to need a heart transplant,’” Dobbs said. “It was kind of a shock to hear.”

Potential recipients cannot have any other pressing health concerns that could interfere with the success of the transplant. In mid-February, Dobbs was approved and placed on the waiting list. A week later he was scheduled for surgery. Although the operation carried risks, Dobbs knew he had everything to gain if the transplant was a success.

“I was at the point where I could hardly do anything,” he said. “I’d get out of bed in the morning and walk to the kitchen, and by the time I got there I’d have to sit down again just to catch my breath.”