They were the rowdy bunch in the transplant rehab unit of Cleveland Clinic, loud and laughing, working out together and growing a close friendship that has become contagious now that they’re home with new hearts. The nurses called Frank Bianchi, Holly Mulkerin and a few others, “The Rowdy Heart Waiters,” and the name stuck.
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Now Bianchi and others have taken the name on the road, literally. For the last few years, a growing team of heart transplant recipients and their friends and family have participated in LifeBanc’s annual charity walk, Gift of Life Walk/Run. LifeBanc is a nonprofit organ and tissue recovery organization in northeast Ohio.
At this year’s Aug. 11 walk, the 81-member Rowdy Hearts team won an award for having the most transplant recipients on one team—11 total. “We are shooting for 15 next year,” says Bianchi, who encourages heart transplant recipients to join the team and walk. “It’s a time for us to celebrate, and it feels a lot like a family reunion,” he says.
This year, Rowdy Hearts brought in $4,000 in pledge dollars for LifeBanc as the ninth largest donor team out of 139. Initially, the team started out with 20 members—the original few Rowdy Hearts plus family and friends. The participants and pledges grow each year, Bianchi says, adding that their T-shirts include the walkers’ heart transplant numbers. (Bianchi’s is 1,396—meaning Cleveland Clinic had performed 1,395 transplants before his.)
Interested in walking with the Rowdy Hearts next year? All are welcome, Bianchi says.
For more information, visit Rowdy Hearts.
All of us at Cleveland Clinic are so proud of the team! Keep it up.