Editor's note: This is the fifth story in an occasional series
Paul Cardall has been waiting for the phone to ring for an entire year.
Not that the LDS musician doesn't take calls from family and friends on a daily basis, but those calls are different. They keep his emotions and his spirit healthy.
The one call he's waiting for will say it's time to replace his own failing heart with that of another, whose family will then be broken-hearted.
There will be gratitude and silent rejoicing on one end of the line, with sadness and mourning on the other. As much as he prays for that family, he can't change the reality that his chance for a future with his wife and 3-year-old daughter will come because someone else dies.
Born with congenital heart disease, Cardall, 36, was first listed for a heart transplant last August after years of surgeries.
Speaking with the Deseret News at Primary Children's Medical Center, where his transplant will take place, he reflected on a year of knowing that his future depends largely on factors he has no control over. Pediatric heart surgeons will replace his diseased heart when the time comes, because they've been treating his disease since childhood.
In a place focused on "the child, first and always," Cardall has learned lessons in child-like faith and honed an unwavering conviction that God still has things for him to do.
"I'm in here for a tuneup," he says, smiling despite the oxygen tube running into his nose and an array of nutrition and medication bags hanging from the IV pole that has become his constant companion.
Though he is smiling and pleasant, Cardall is visibly tired.
"My organs are overworked right now; my heart is enlarged, and so is my liver and everything else. This is like getting an oil change before you take out the old engine to put in a new engine. I just have a rusty engine and rusty parts to go with it.
"This whole year has been up and down, up and down. They tell me I'm worse, but I think I feel about the same." Mentally, "I'm in a different place" than a year ago, due in no small part to the fact that his brother, Brian Cardall, died suddenly earlier this summer after police in southern Utah Tazered him. The incident became front-page news across the state.
"We've always prayed for the family whose loss would be our future. So when Brian died, it just put us in their shoes. He wasn't able to be an organ donor because they couldn't harvest any of his organs," based on the nature of Brian's death and the lack of medical supervision.
But after the family requested it, doctors "were able to harvest some bone and tissue and our family went through the process of having to answer all those questions to Intermountain Donor Services."
The irony of having his brother die so unexpectedly while he is waiting for a new heart was thick. "I don't even know if he was my blood type," Cardall said.
In the months since, "I've spent almost all my time trying to immortalize him with a Web site — briancardall.com — trying to share with the public the type of person that he was."
As he visited the other night with his brother's widow and his niece, they brought him sushi — something Paul is not a fan of but which his brother loved. "I ate it because I knew Brian would be laughing. I try to do things to bring some joy into his existence, wherever he's at."
Though he's been too ill to do much work on his music, Shadow Mountain recently approached him about creating a 15th anniversary CD that was just released. "Sacred Piano," includes a piece he wrote after the death of Gracie Gledhill, a child at Primary Children's who received a heart transplant and later died.
"I was honored to play at her funeral. I haven't written a lot of songs this year, but a few times I would sit at the piano and this certain melody would come out that summed up my experience this year. That's when I wrote 'Gracie's Theme,' " as a tribute to "all the children that come here for a short while and teach us some things about how delicate life is."
As he watches the children in the adjacent rooms and hears an occasional laugh, he thinks about future activities with his own daughter, Eden: jumping on the trampoline, taking her swimming, riding a bike.
He also ponders another goal — one that seems to fit the theme of his own life dealing with congenital heart disease.
"I have a goal one year from the day that my brother was killed to climb Mt. Olympus. He used to climb the face of it with ropes. I'm not going to do it that way; I'm going to take the long trail to the top."
Just as he's been doing since childhood.
e-mail: [email protected]