Anniversary bittersweet for Windsor man

Published 9:29 am Saturday, July 30, 2011

WINDSOR—Mike Stephens’ month-long birthday celebration began with a Friday night gathering of family and friends.

It won’t end until he turns 54 on Aug. 30.

The Windsor man’s reasons for the longer-than-normal celebration are bittersweet. Friday marked the first anniversary of Stephens’ heart transplant. The heart came from a 43-year-old Charlotte man.

“It’s hard celebrating knowing the feeling and the hurt and pain they (the donor’s family) went through a year ago,” Stephens said. “Words can’t say how much we appreciate what they were willing to do for someone else. It’s an amazing gift.”

“My hat’s off to the generosity and selflessness for a family to open themselves up to go through that experience,” his fiancé, Judy Robinson, added. “We would truly love to be able to meet them to thank them.”

The couple attempted to meet with the family through the agency that arranged the transplant. No one contacted them.

A native of Walters who was forced to retire in 2005 due to his muscle-damaged heart, Stephens for nearly six months was attached to a portable device that kept his heart going.

The father of four got the call for a new heart on July 28, 2010, and had the transplant done at Sentara Heart Hospital in Norfolk. He remained hospitalized for 72 days.

Stephens said he feels great.

“If I was any better, I’d be twins,” he said. “I mean I’d be two people. I’ve been doing enough for two people.”

Stephens, who remains on disability, is chairman of the Isle of Wight County Fair Committee, an organization he has spent 15 years serving. Stephens also served as the assistant coach for the Isle of Wight Academy baseball team. For the first time in a long time, he’s able to cut his grass.