Man Gets New Heart in Time for New Year - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Man Gets New Heart in Time for New Year

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KENNEWICK, Wash--  The first breakfast for the O'Donnel family in the new year is anything but quiet; the family has 7 kids.  And for Jim O'Donnel, the father, keeping up with so many kids can be a challenge.  He's had four open heart surgeries, his most recent a heart transplant.  

News of the operation was both a blessing and a scare.  It was time for his kids to keep up with him.

"Trying to normalize life, and every day life with them was something we sat down and talked to all the kids about and said this where we are, this is what's going to happen, how do you feel about it and where you want to be," says Cheryl O'Donnel, Jim's wife.  "If you think this is something that's too difficult for you to endure, then let us know."

But his family stayed by his side, even taking pictures of their father's journey on their computer.  Now over a month removed from his latest surgery, Jim is back on his feet, re-gaining strength he can put in his family.

"They told me I should recooperate sooner or later and about a week later, I started talking a little bit, and that's when I saw hope," says Jim.

And so he continued to push.  Though he still has trouble speaking, he's now going to speech and physical therapy, and he's finally able to live life without the help of a machine.  It's as if he's been given a new life.  And whatever life that may be, it is one Jim can share with his family.

"You're going to have to deal with life on life's terms, and we don't always know what life is going to deal us," says Cheryl.