Dave Gray, a lifetime resident of East Greenbush, NY, lived a healthy life. He married his high school sweetheart and together they raised two children. A self-described workaholic, every day he would head to his job at Owens Corning, working from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
However, that all changed in the summer of 2010. He was having difficulty breathing and thought it was just allergies. He went to his family doctor who in turn sent him to the local hospital, where he was admitted for two weeks. He was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy – a virus attacked his heart, causing it to become enlarged, rigid, and thick. The following spring his cardiologist implanted a defibrillator to regulate his heart rhythm.
Five years later, Dave’s condition took a turn for the worse. It was early autumn in 2015, and he had just finished mowing the lawn. He told his wife he was heading to the store, but didn’t make it far.
My wife turned to go in the house, and I said ‘Cath, don’t leave. Something’s wrong.’ Then I was face first on the floor.
Dave was in full cardiac arrest, and thankfully his defibrillator saved his life. His condition deteriorated so much that his doctor told him he needed a heart transplant to survive. “She told me to go home and talk to my family and tell them you’re going to be moving into the hospital and meeting your new family down in Westchester.” A month after arriving at Westchester Medical Center, he crashed and was put on life support for 77 days. “It was tough,” Dave said. “Tough on my wife.”
On August 20, 2016, after a six‐year‐long battle that included many hospital stays, Dave received his lifesaving gift: a new heart from a 30‐year‐old organ donor. Since his transplant, Dave has returned to being as active as he was before his illness. “I awaken with my donor on my mind, and I volunteer to give others hope,” he said.
Truly a man with heart, he is committed to giving back for his gifts and ensuring others can receive the gift of life as well. Not only does he volunteer his time with numerous organizations, including Donate Life NYS, but he travels back to Westchester Medical Center every week to support anxious patients who are currently navigating the transplant process and awaiting lifesaving gifts of their own.
Remarkably, Dave still makes time for his many hobbies, as well. He established the Donate Life Rock Painting Facebook Group, and the rocks he and other transplant recipients paint have been found all over the world. He fishes in the summer and hunts in the fall, makes beer, cans jam and tends to his five beehives. Last year, not only did he produce 90 pounds of honey, but he also won Donate Life America’s Blue & Green Day photo contest, with a picture of his beehive reminding us all to “Bee Kind…Bee a Donor” – inspiring 2022’s Donate Life Month theme.