Wednesday, April 25, 2001
DALLAS -- People in need could always count on Pat Lewis, whether it was at his auto clinic, the Dallas Texaco or Dallas Muffler. Now, at age 47, Lewis needs the help himself. Admitted to the hospital on April 22, he needs a heart transplant operation in order to survive.
Lewis had a mitral valve implant in 1980. Both that valve and his aortic valve failed in 1987, forcing a second implant operation.
Though he faded to 97 pounds in the hospital, Lewis returned to work within six months. He owned the Dallas Texaco and then, in 1989, Dallas Muffler at the same site.
"We gave old-fashioned service, the kind you don't get anymore," Lewis said.
Lewis often offered discounted or free service to those in need. "I'm just that type of person -- I'd help people who couldn't afford to get things fixed. I love helping people." Lewis gave up the business last year when he became too ill to run it.
A year ago, Lewis began to notice the same symptoms that had preceded his earlier surgeries. He had tests done at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland last month and made the transplant waiting list. The prognosis: Lewis has less than a year to live without a new heart.
Securing money and a donor remain a challenge. The transplant will cost $300,000 and then $25,000 per year to maintain. Even with insurance, Lewis would face $1,200 in prescription bills to keep his body from rejecting the new organ. And a special diet, transportation to Portland and lodging there all cost money.
Furthermore, he has an uncommon blood type, B Positive, shared by only one in 10 people. This statistic has an upside, however. Lewis is the only B Positive person in this donor region, putting him at the top of that list.
Lewis constantly struggles with his health. "You're reminded daily you're sick. I sometimes get out of breath just changing my clothes," he said.
For the self-described workaholic Lewis, the sickness and the wait for a new heart are extremely challenging. "Not being allowed to do anything, it's scary," Lewis said. "It's hard to fight off the depression.
"I've always been a doer. Now I'm controlled by everyone else," Lewis said, pulling out the pager he wears while waiting for news of an available heart.
He needs a pager because the heart, unlike other organs, can remain only a few hours outside of the body without damage.
The average wait for a transplant is six months, Lewis said. "It could be tomorrow, it could be a year," he said.
While Lewis waits, his supporters have sprung to action. The Pat Lewis Heart Transplant Fund will hold a silent auction to raise money for Lewis from noon to 3 p.m. on May 19 at First Christian Church in Dallas. Tickets cost $5 for individuals and $15 for families and include dessert, drinks and entertainment.
Local businesses and individuals have donated everything from jewelry to massage to meals for the auction. Some big-ticket items include a 1960s World Series baseball autographed by the Giants and Yankees, a $200 hot-air balloon ride, and autographed pictures of celebrities Willie Stargell, Clint Black and Arnold Palmer.
The Arctic Circle in Dallas will donate 30 percent of its total sales from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 27 to the transplant fund, with employees donating their time. The Dallas Dairy Queen held an identical fund raiser March 20.
True to form, Lewis would like to see the auction grow to a yearly event to help others who need transplants. "I want to relate how thankful I am to the community for what's been done so far," he said.
To donate items for the auction, call Conni Anderson at 623-9613. Cash contributions should be made through the law office of Chris Lilligard in Dallas, 236 SW Mill Street. Make checks payable to Chris Lilligard Trust Account with a note reading "Pat Lewis Heart Transplant Fund," in the check's memo line.