Houston Methodist Hospital
Lucio Arreola is going to have an amazing Father’s Day this year. He now finds amazing almost every day.
Arreola has a new heart; or at least new to him. He is 50 years old, has three daughters and is a banker in Puerto Rico. On April 20, doctors at the Houston Methodist Hospital performed a transplant to implant the heart of a deceased 25-year-old man whose identity he may never know, but to whom he and his family will always be grateful.
Arreola was told 15 years ago that he had heart disease that was causing his breathing and circulation to weaken. He took a range of medications while he and his wife Elena raised three daughters: Maria, now 21, Paulina, 19, and Lucia, 17. They were concerned about their father’s health. He was worried about her luck.
“I live for her,” he told us this week. “I was worried if I could do what a father should really do for his children. But I knew when they grew up they had to treat me like a normal person, not a patient.”
Lucio Arreola has recovered from his heart transplant at Houston Methodist in the past two months.
“One day up, one day down,” he told us. “Some days dark, a little light. But what happens,” he says, “is that you really feel it when the sun is shining. Every breath is sweet. You see the trees, people. You hear your daughters laugh, and it is like birdsong. All the little details suddenly become big. You say to yourself, ‘There is no time in life for anything other than love.’ “
As his family took Lucio down the corridors of the hospital to strengthen him, they heard a woman playing the guitar and singing in another patient’s room. It was Liz Laguaite, a hospital music therapist, playing a song. She told the Arreola family, “Why don’t you try to write a song together about what you’ve been through and learned?”
They decided to give it a try. Lucio Arreola had feared that his daughters might see him, their father, as fragile due to illness. But instead of frailty, what they saw above all was his courage to keep going. And he says that her love was her own strong heart muscle that gave him faith, hope and courage.
“My weak heart,” he says, “made her strong.”
Arreola says he learned that human hearts are fragile and finite. But a family’s love is unwavering and lasting. The Arreola family recorded the song they created while Lucio is recovering. It begins with the strong beat of a father’s loving heart.