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In a time of grief, a stranger's family gave him the ultimate gift

Andy Davis was fit and active when he was diagnosed with heart failure.
Andy Davis
Andy Davis was fit and active when he was diagnosed with heart failure.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.


A few years ago, Andy Davis and his wife decided to ride their bikes across the country. They spent months training and planning for their adventure.

But one day in February of 2020, just a few months before they were going to start, Davis felt an intense pain across his chest. After two Medevac flights and some time in the hospital, he was diagnosed with heart failure, a serious condition in which the heart can no longer pump blood efficiently.

"It was incredible because I was so fit, and just a couple months later I could barely shuffle around my own home," he said.

His doctors told him that the only way he'd survive was with a new heart. By November, Davis was placed on a heart transplant list — a wait that can take months, if not years.

"You don't know if you're going to get a heart if you're placed on the list," he said. "You just hope."

But Davis' condition quickly deteriorated, and for 11 days, he was kept alive with a balloon pump placed in his aorta. On the 12th day, Davis was elated to learn that a new heart was on its way. It would come from a wife and mother named Sarah Ivy.

Andy Davis with wife Stephanie Taylor-Davis.
/ Andy Davis
/
Andy Davis
Andy Davis with wife Stephanie Taylor-Davis.

Today, Davis marvels that he is still alive. And he is overwhelmed with gratitude for Ivy and her family, who gave him the gift of life during a time of immense grief.

"I truly believe that the heartbeat of humanity empathy, care and compassion are alive and well because of countless unsung heroes like Sarah Ivy," he said.

Davis is back on his bike, and he and his wife are now thinking about taking that cross-country bicycle trip. And in August, Davis plans to meet Ivy's family for the first time, to thank them in person. He hopes to ride the 200 miles there on his bike.

My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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