Celebrate giving life on Valentine's Day

By Jessi Stone Guide editor | Feb 09, 2014

Valentine’s Day 2002 was the best day of Rachel Tucker’s life — but not because she had a perfect date or received a box of chocolates.

It was the day that Tucker received a new heart that saved her life. In honor of that day and to encourage others to be an organ donor, Tucker, who lives in Maggie Valley, is holding a Valentine’s Day event to raise money and awareness about the importance of being an organ donor.

“I’m so blessed and grateful to the people who gave me my transplant and this is a way for me to give back,” she said. “I want to have an awareness day.  I don’t want to focus on the money but any donated goes to Life Fair to help families of donors.”

From noon to 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21, Tucker will be showing movies related to transplants at Organic Bean Coffee Shop, located at 1110 Soco Road in Maggie Valley. Movies being shown will be “John Q,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Seven Pounds” and “Return to Me.”

The event is free but donations will be accepted for Life Share of the Carolinas. Attendants who can show that they are organ donors on their driver’s licenses or who sign up to be a donor will receive a door prize.

Tucker said she was misdiagnosed for years as having severe asthma when it was really congestive heart failure. But her doctor finally discovered she had developed clots because her heart wasn’t pumping correctly, which caused her to have a stroke in 2001.

“That’s when they realized I need a transplant,” she said.

She was only 42 years old. She stayed in the hospital for a month before being sent home to wait on a heart. Two weeks later, Feb. 14, 2002, she got the call to come to the hospital. But she didn’t get her hopes up because there was still a chance that it wouldn’t be a good match.

“But I remember telling my mom, ‘it’s Valentine’s Day and this is my heart and I know it,’” Tucker said. “I was totally at peace and I knew it was my heart.”

Twelve years later she is still going strong — but she knows the average life expectancy with a heart transplant is 15 years.

“Every day is a gift,” she said.

That is why she holds a fundraiser and awareness event each Valentine’s Day in hope that others will see the up side of giving the gift of life to others. So make alternative Valentine’s Day plans and watch some inspiring movies at Organic Bean.

For information on the event, email Tucker at weezietucker@hotmail.com.

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