Woman waits for new heart, gift of life on Valentine's Day

Cathy Harding, 50, needs a transplant

INDIANAPOLIS - It's a day of surprises and smiles for many hoping to get valentines and other gifts of love, but on this Valentine's Day, one Indianapolis woman is waiting for the gift of a lifetime -- a new heart.

Cathy Harding, 50, survived breast cancer. It was some time after that treatment that doctors discovered she had a life-threatening heart condition. Last year at this time, she found out something had to be done to keep her alive.

"It all came crashing down one night, and that I don't remember at all," Harding said.

Cathy went on the waiting list for a new heart in August. 

Rick, her husband of 31 years, has been at her side every step of the way.

"It's just amazing how you don't really understand how much you really love life until someone tries to take it from you," he said.

Cathy is receiving treatment at St. Vincent and is now on a battery-powered heart pump. It keeps her alive while she waits for a new one.

In the face of uncertainty, she is unstoppable and quite upbeat, especially around her family.  

"I can't really get mad at them, because they could unplug me," Cathy joked. "So I got to be careful."

The number of heart transplants across the county has remained flat around 2,000 in the past several years, because the number of donors has not increased.

"If there's one message we'd like to say on this Valentine's Day for people watching, make sure you think carefully about being a donor and telling your family members about your wishes," said Dr. Mary Walsh, who heads up St Vincent Hospital's cardiac transplant program.

As Cathy waits, she struggles at times with what needs to happen in order for her to get well.

"The idea that someone has to die in order for me to have a heart, that's a hard one to wrap your arms around," she said.

Family, friends and an unwavering faith keep this loving couple going. In their heart of hearts, they know it will be OK.

"Whatever's in plan for us is in plan, and we're just going to go with it," Cathy said. 

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