MADISON, Wis. - Scott Kirkpatrick's drawings line the hallway leading to UW Hospital's transplant clinic. He knew that walkway all too well.
His journey to a new heart started on July 1, 2017. He had a massive heart attack while driving and ran into a tree at 80 mph.
"He was flatlined for a little bit, but they brought him back," said Carrie Kirkpatrick, Scott's wife. "He had to really fight to stay alive. He was in the hospital for over a month and he had machines breathing for him, he had machines pumping his heart."
Kirkpatrick had about two dozen broken bones, including both ankles.
After nearly six months of repeat hospitalizations, multiple surgeries, rehab and dialysis, Scott was sent home. As he contemplated why he survived, he drew.
He began depicting his feelings, good or bad, through art.
"He went through this horrific accident and heart attack and he made it through, but his health is declining and he's getting weaker, and his heart literally is dying. It's kind of like running a marathon and then finding out 'Oh, you're not done. You have to run another one,' because now you have to wait for a heart transplant," Kirkpatrick said.
The transplant was originally denied. It took two and a half months for Scott to be approved and added to the waiting list.
"We have patients that are on the waiting list a day or two and patients that are on the waiting list for years," said Dr. Josh Hermsen, a UW Health heart transplant surgeon. "There's so much luck in any kind of transplant scenario."
Scott was lucky. He only waited eight days before receiving a call that he had a heart.
"He literally drew a picture of his mom and dad, who have passed away, as angels up in heaven. And he is like a little swaddled newborn baby. That drawing was literally done 10 minutes before they wheeled him down for transplant surgery," said Kirkpatrick.
The transplant was successful, but Kirkpatrick still struggled to walk because of the pain in his ankles. He also drew about the mood swings the anti-rejection drugs caused and the struggle of having to cover his smile with a mask.
But about six months after his transplant surgery, he was in another accident.
"He took a wrong turn and accidentally drove into the Wisconsin River and drowned. I was actually in the car with him. I was able to get out and get to shore but he didn't make it," said Kirkpatrick.
It had been just over a year since Scott's heart attack that caused his original crash.
Before he died, he began sending UW Hospital's art coordinator his drawings, preparing for an exhibit.
"Unfortunately, in the drowning accident, he had all his electronics in the car and so what we have is what we have, but we lost dozens and dozens of drawings," said Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick wanted to continue her husband's legacy by helping to put on the exhibit. She, along with their two children, wrote summaries for each piece to explain what it meant to him.
She added a "loving life" lesson to each drawing. She hopes the drawings bring insight, hope and compassion to families, patients and doctors entering the transplant clinic.
"It isn't a linear journey. It isn't I just get better every day. It's like life -- it's up and down, up and down. I just hope that that lesson rings,true that people know they just gotta keep, keep moving forward," she said.
The exhibit will continue through February.
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