July 27, 2010

In Memory of Tammy


John 14:1-6 (New International Version)

Jesus Comforts His Disciples "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Jesus the Way to the Father Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
 ..God be with you in this hour of sadness...
Tammy is my sisters niece. She passed away today after many years
after recieving a heart transplant. She is survived by her son and dil , Ryan and Stephananie Page, grandson Ryan, parents, Dwight and Ann Page,
 brothers Terry, Erik and Jason Page ,  and the entire   Tammy Page Svihlik   Page ,and  Kessel Family

God be with you Tam

Her family recieved this from Tammy's heart transplant doctor of years ago... what a letter!..I am still in tears from reading it..I thought maybe a few of you would like to see what the doctors are feeling as they cared for our loved ones...Cindy

Tammy Page Svihlik

Mt. Morris and the entire community is sadder and poorer today with the passing of Tammy Page Svihlik. But while we need to console ourselves in this time of sadness we also know that we will each take some strength and joy from having known Tammy, been her friend, relative, neighbor or even an acquaintance. She was just that kind of person; brave courageous, kind and heroic to the end. The way we must do that is by telling stories about Tammy.

If you didn’t know her, she was this tiny but powerful young woman whose path just seemed to be filled with more troubles than normal. At a young age she had cancer that claimed one of her legs and whose treatment included a medicine that would severely and permanently damage her heart. Damage so severe that she would ultimately end up in heart failure and need a heart transplant. And so 23 years ago she did get a transplant and that is where my story begins.

I was the heart failure/transplant cardiologist making rounds on our patients. Tammy had come to the hospital a few days earlier before I took over the service. I had heard about her, heard she was a little skiddish and quite frankly didn’t know what to expect. When I did meet her I saw the fear in her eyes but I also saw the life in her eyes. I used to ask my patients what were their goals in life for that let me know what to focus on when the going got tough. Tammy was instant and clear that her goals were to raise her son Ryan…and to have a good time!

I remember seeing her as a small critically ill woman but I never saw her as weak or without will. She had a prosthetic leg which she handled with agility and speed….she seemed more like an athlete doing her warm up than a young woman with any limitations.

And like all things in her life, Tammy didn’t have anything that came easy. Her transplant finally happened after a long wait in the hospital. And then came more than the usual ups and downs. But several things happened. Tammy began to develop a following of doctors, nurses, aides, transporters and frankly anyone she came in touch with- a team of people who were just rooting for Tammy. And no one befriended her out of pity or sadness. It was just that she was as sincere as the day was long. She buoyed up our spirits more than we did hers I think.

As she went back to Mt. Morris, I saw her less and less as she became more stable after her transplant. Then I left Loyola but thanks to common friends we stayed in touch.

I know the course of heart transplant patients and knew that some day I’d hear that Tammy was in trouble. Those calls have gone on for months now and now she is gone. I was not there in the end but believe she knew that I was still on the team that was rooting for her.

And her goals….well, she fulfilled them I think. She raised her son Ryan to be a brave young man like her. She saw him married and saw the birth of her grandchild. He was her life’s work and her joy. And the other goal- to have a good time- despite her struggles and challenges, I think Tammy always had a good time….while I hadn’t seen her for a while, our dear friend (and perhaps Tammy’s best friend, Linda Straith) always kept me posted with pictures an stories. And in all those pictures I never saw anything other than that sweet Tammy smile. Tammy was at peace with herself---a gift she so richly deserved.

I believe Tammy’s life was a living testimony to what good can come from tragedy. She received a heart from a moment of sadness and loss. She took that heart and literally ran with it- providing inspiration, goodness and solace to everyone who knew her. She influenced so many beyond her own son.

She would have wanted her passing to be a celebration. She would have wanted us to remember the joys and successes she attained. She would want to raise the call for organ donation even louder in her passing.

The only thing I want is for everyone to carry Tammy in his or her hearts for a long, long time. I certainly will.

Marc A. Silver, MD, FACP, FCCP, FAHA
Clinical Professor and Chairman
Department of Medicine
Director, Heart Failure Institute
Advocate Christ Medical Center

Created: Thursday, August 12, 2010 11:32 a.m. CDTUpdated: Thursday, August 12, 2010 2:45 p.m. CDTFONT SIZE:Gift of a Heart - family urges others to become organ donors

By Earleen Hinton - General Manager

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Ryan and Stephanie Page pose with their son Ryan Jr. and a photo of Ryan's mom, Tammy, who passed away July 27. Photo by Earleen Hinton
ShareRyan Page remembers his mom Tammy calculating the best way to corral him when he was a young child —no small chore for a woman who had one leg and a transplanted heart."She always tried to chase me around the house and corner me if I had done something bad," said Ryan. "She didn’t have to be the quickest. She used her brains to get me."

The 26-year-old Army sergeant has that fond memory today thanks to a young woman who decided to be an organ donor 23 years ago.

Tammy Page was a 20-year-old single mother when she learned in 1987 she would die from congestive heart failure unless she received a new heart.

Tammy, a Mt. Morris resident, had already lost her mother in an automobile accident when she was 2 and part of her right leg to cancer when she was 10. She had successfully completed chemotherapy when her heart started to fail in 1985 and quickly worsened in 1987.

Her biggest fear was that she would not see her three-year-old son Ryan grow up.

That tragedy was avoided when Tammy received the 93rd heart transplant ever performed at Loyola Hospital in Maywood.

"She had ‘Heart 93’ on her license plates for a longtime. She was proud of it," said Ryan.

Tammy, 43, passed away July 27 after a series of recent medical complications — 23 years and one month after she received her new heart.

Her family and friends now want others to know how that gift of a heart enabled Tammy to raise her son and lead a productive life.

"We were told that the donor was a young woman who was a runner who had died from an aneurysm," said Helen Page, Tammy’s aunt. "Tammy wanted to live to raise her son and it was the blessing of that heart that enabled her to do that."

Tammy was there when Ryan started kindergarten, suited up for baseball games, graduated from Oregon High School, attended college, joined the Army, and married.

She even got to hold Ryan Jr., Ryan’s infant son this June.

All motherly functions that most families take for granted — except the Page family.

"She got to enjoy her son’s life. I hope people understand that," said Helen who helped take care of Tammy before and after the transplant. "She had to have the heart transplant or she would have died."

Linda Straith was one of the nurses on the Tammy’s transplant team and remained her friend throughout her life.

"We all made sure we looked after our young mother," said Straith. "Tammy became very special to us. We were all very blessed and humbled to have known Tammy."

Tammy returned to work at Watt Publishing Co. in Mt. Morris and later Woods Equipment Co. in Oregon, following the transplant.

She earned a college degree and taught herself how to crochet, basket weave, and quilt.

"Then she taught her nieces how to crochet and quilt. She didn’t let all that she had gone through hold her down," said Helen.

"She lived a good life for the 23 years following the transplant," said Tammy’s cousin Chris Donahue, Helen’s daughter. "We really want to encourage others to become organ donors."

Ryan, who returned from active duty in Afghanistan to attend his mother’s funeral last week, is an organ donor in honor of his mom.

"I have it on my driver’s licenses in Illinois and New Mexico and on my military ID to be an organ donor," he said.

Ryan and his wife Stephanie, who is also in the Army, were married in Iraq on Sept. 28, 2007.

Despite her diminishing health, Tammy was able to host a baby shower for Ryan and Stephanie in January of this year.

"Tammy was able to give them the baby quilt that her mother had started. She was able to finish it in time for the baby shower and give it to them," said Helen.

"She was hooked up to so many machines, but as soon as I got back to see her everyone said she seemed to get better. I hope I had something to do with it," Ryan said.

When Tammy received her heart in 1987, transplant patients were only expected to live five years. Tammy was the second longest living transplant patient to have received a heart from Loyola, Straith said.

"Tammy wasn’t just an inspiration for all of us who new her personally—she was a also an inspiration in the field of transplantation because she lived so long," said Straith. "The key issue for her longevity was her family support and the continued support of the transplant team."

Donahue said watching Tammy persevere through the challenges she faced also influenced her own life.

"Tammy’s ups and downs really put life in perspective for me," she said. "It didn’t take much to make her happy and I don’t recall her ever being bitter or angry at anyone for any of the misfortunes that came her way. She loved her son, her family and friends and she never wished her misfortunes on anyone else."

Tammy’s medical condition worsened while Ryan was deployed in Afghanistan earlier this year. They would communicate by telephone when they could.

In late June, Stephanie and the baby were able to travel from the Army base in White Sands, New Mexico to Illinois so Tammy could hold her grandson.

"It was quite a trip, but it was definitely worth it," said Stephanie.

"We were so happy that Stephanie got to come up with the baby," said Ryan. "My mom really wanted to see the baby and she fought hard with everything she had to make sure she saw him."

Stephanie had been back home for just three weeks when Tammy passed away.

Ryan remembers the last phone call with this mom.

"She really couldn’t talk much, but they held the phone up to her so she could hear me talk," he said. "I wish I could have been there...I think she’s happier now.

"She kept saying she wanted to go home and I think she’s there now."

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