Stories of Hope: Len Strickland

His symptoms began with dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and edema in the ankles, feet and calves. After visiting with multiple doctors, in 2007 Len Strickland was diagnosed with Familial (Hereditary) Amyloidosis, a rare hereditary disease that eventually leads to congestive heart failure.

After approximately a year of tests, in March 2008, Len was officially placed on the regional heart transplant list. The categories of placement on the list are 1A, 1B and 2 with 1A being the most severe. Len was told he had been designated as a 2 and to keep his hopes for a heart transplant to a minimum.

Then, on Wednesday, June 11, 2008, just three months and one week after being placed on the bottom of the waiting list, Len went into surgery and nearly 12 hours later, awoke to a new heart. The only reason Len says he received his new heart in such a short period of time was due to the fact that he was the only AB positive blood type recipient on the list.

Since receiving his heart transplant at age 64, Len, now 71, leads an active lifestyle – walking 3-5 miles two times a week and doing Yoga twice a week, in addition to general strength training and golfing regularly.

“I am extremely fortunate and blessed for my new heart, and the most stimulating aspect of this journey is that my wife, Karen, and I have been able to spend quality time with our grandchildren. We have been able to travel and live our lives as we did prior to my transplant and see the world. Post-transplant, we have traveled to fifty-seven countries, including Antarctica.” Among the places he and Karen have traveled: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman, Brazil, West Africa, Eastern Europe, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

Len, who is a small business owner, has long supported his local community and gives back as a board member for an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) Basketball program in West Sacramento and is on the board of directors for the Sacramento City College Foundation.

“I take every day as it comes and enjoy them with compassion, and share whatever I have and do with my wife, daughters, son, and grandchildren. Life is too short to worry about the small things. Take every day as a new experience!”

Len has not met his donor’s family, although he communicates with his donor’s mother. She has sent him photos his donor, a 23-year-old male with a three year old son, and Len emails her when he travels, letting her know where he is going.

As a Donate Life Ambassador in the Sacramento area, Len says he will continue to tell his personal story to encourage others. “If I can do it, it is possible with positive thoughts and determination. You can as well.”

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