Two years after living life with a new heart, Jeff Clardy spends his days much like he did with his old heart; working in his family’s cobbler shop.
“Naturally you would think you’re not going to be able to do the things you used to be able to do but I can,” Clardy says.
Clardy says he was out of the hospital just days after his transplant. Six months after that, he ran a 5K marathon. Clardy and his doctors call his recovery ideal. He’s only taking two pills a day and didn’t have to undergo any major therapy. But Clardy says each person reacts to a heart transplant differently.
Jeff admits he’s had to make some adjustments, even at the shop he holds dear. Now he lets his son take the lead.
“The first two weeks i just my blood pressure was going up this was going up and I called the doc and he said you’ve got to stop,” Clardy says. “And it’s because I know what it takes to run a business I’ve done it for 35 years and when I’m in there I’m thinking all the things that need to be done.”
It’s part of what he calls the new normal. Clardy’s transplant medication lowers his immune system, making it easier for him to catch colds, which can directly affect his heart.
“Keeping your hands clean cleaning silverware if you eat out,” Clardy says. “Sometimes people look at us and think oh is it not clean? No it’s just part of the routine.”
Clardy says it’s a small price to pay. Especially considering there were days when he didn’t even know if he’d get a new heart. He credits his wife Marietta for helping him make it through.
“When you lay beside somebody at night time and you kiss her goodnight and say I don’t know if I’ll see you in the morning,” Clardy says. “That creates a bond that surpasses anything.”
Clardy’s son Steven says it’s brought their family closer.
“He does have a lot more compassion for life,” Steven Clardy says. “And he’s always been a compassionate person towards the family but after the transplant you can really see he’s strives very hard to make an extra effort.”
Two years after he didn’t know what life with a new heart would look like, Clardy says he likes what he sees.
“I’ve been able to see three grandchildren born,” Clardy says. “I’ve celebrated 31 years of marriage with my wife. and I’ve been able to live life.”
According to the American Heart Association not everyone’s recovery from a transplant may be as smooth as Clardy’s. It’s not unusual for patients to undergo weeks of therapy. Often driving and working is limited.
Specialists say it generally takes three to six months to fully recover from transplant surgery, but age and previous medical history may extend that.