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Give Blood, Share Joy: Joe Tucker's transplant story

“I wanted to live, and I'm living, I want it to survive. And I'm a survivor,” said Joe Tucker.
Credit: WATN

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Give Blood, Share Joy.

It is our campaign to help give others a second chance at life by donating blood.

We’ve partnered with Vitalant and the National Foundation for Transplants to host blood drives throughout the Mid-South.

In learning the value of donors, we’ve also spoken with donor recipients. Our Brittani Moncrease shares the story of a transplant survivor who now has a new outlook on life.

To be given another chance to live is an opportunity Joe Tucker doesn’t take lightly. He now carries the load of gratitude and peace each and every day.

Life is a gift of the present.

“I love it each and every day,” said Tucker, a heart transplant recipient.

Life is a gift that for Tucker almost became the past.

“It’s something that you can’t explain. It’s really hard to explain to say, ‘I’ve died and came back,’” aid Tucker.

He did, having received a second chance at life.

In 2004, at just 38-years-old, Tucker had a heart attack.

“I was an entrepreneur doing my own landscaping and just got stressed out. I was working really hard in the summer times and stuff, and I just collapsed. And after that first heart attack, the second one was no problem,” said Tucker.

Then Tucker had a third, fourth, and fifth heart attack.

“From there, it's like heart attack after a heart attack. I've had maybe, say six or seven,” said Tucker. “My arteries were closing up from smoking cigarettes. Do not smoke. Also, from smoking cigarettes to high cholesterol... Heart attacks hurt. I’ll tell you that. They really hurt. You never know when you’re going to have one. You never know. I guess I got used to it. After I hit so many, I could tell if I was going to have one.”

Tucker had pacemakers, stents, and even ended up with an LVAD to pump his heart by using batteries and electricity. 

The only solution was to get a heart transplant.

“I've never was scared really, to go through the transplant. You know, because it was either you do the transplant or you die,” said Tucker. “Dying... Dying is really pretty easy. Living is the hard part. Living is the hard part. You have to strive to live.”

Tucker chose to strive by having the heart transplant.

“I wanted to live, and I'm living, I wanted to survive. And I'm a survivor,” said Tucker. “People that donate organs, they are angels. I live right now today, three and a half years off of someone else's heart, which my body did accept. The heart did accept my body. I take medications every morning every day, but I’m blessed to be above this earth.”

Now with a renewed value on living in the present, Tucker has a focus on the future.

“I drank. I smoked, but God changed me. He changed me. He said those things are not for you. Now, I live totally different,” said Tucker. “I love my family. My grandbabies - they inspire me to continue living and I just can't see myself, you know, giving up on them. I’m at peace with life now.”

ABC 24 asked, “If you could meet the donor’s family, what would you want to say to them?”

Tucker responded, “I love you. I would tell them I love them. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Seriously, I would tell them thank you so much. If they would want to hear like the heartbeat does continue to live, whoever donated it to me. You can put a, I guess with the little thing right here and just listen his full life. I'm full of life. If it hadn’t been for this person’s heart, I’d be a goner. (patting heart) I love that family. I’ve never met them, but I love that family. I’d like to tell them that I love and thank them.”

Just eight months after getting a new heart, Tucker got in a motorcycle accident.

He was told he would never be able to walk again.

He is walking.

Tucker said if he can get a new heart and live, there’s no way anyone can tell him he can’t walk.

If you’re interested in giving blood through out Give Blood, Share Joy campaign, CLICK HERE, or you can text “GIVEBLOOD” to 901-321-7520 for a list of locations and details.