The gift of a new heart

Gary Thomas’ heart was only functioning at 8 percent when he was placed on a transplant list. One year later, after undergoing a heart transplant that was filmed in 360-degree format and broadcast around the world, Thomas is thankful for his second chance at life.


A year ago, I couldn't walk 20 feet without losing my breath.

[Narrator] Life looks much different now, for 67 year old, Gary Thomas, than it did this time last year.

My heart was working at 8 percent.

[Narrator] Doctors told Thomas there was only one option left.

You're not gonna be able to go home, unless we find you a heart. I was living in Waco, and started having some heart issues. And I've had heart issues for several years.

[Narrator] Those issues were made worse by the sudden death of Karla, his wife of 30 years.

When my wife died, I wanted to die. I guess, because of stress and depression and loss and stuff like that, I started getting worse very quickly.

[Narrator] When Thomas' doctor in Waco realized the severity of his heart condition, he sent him to UT Southwestern Medical Center, where Thomas desperately waited for a new heart.

My heart surgeon was Dr. Peltz. He came into my room on January the 3rd, I guess, and he said, Mr. Thomas, he said, we found you a heart.

[Narrator] His heart transplant surgery was the first ever to be filmed using 360 degree cameras in the operating room. Giving viewers an inside look. The video was viewed more than 600,000 times.

I'm so grateful they asked me that I could be a part of that as a way of paying back what I had been given.

[Narrator] Now healthy, you'd never know what Thomas has been through, and he's not shy about sharing his story.

I tell people how proud I am of my new heart.

[Narrator] With his family, including 21 grandkids, continually by his side, Thomas knew he was never in this long, hard journey alone.

I miss her everyday.

[Narrator] But it was the love of his life that truly kept him going.

[Gary] I know she's there, and I know she helped me through this, and I know she kept telling me, Gary don't give up, you can't give up.

[Narrator] And now, when he looks at his chest.

Every time I look in the mirror and see that scar.

[Narrator] He's forever reminded of how much he still has to live for.

A gift of having this heart and having a second chance at life, means to me that I get to spend more precious time with my family.