JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - A Jackson man, unaware that his heart was failing, received a transplant that changed his life and gave him a desire to take on one of his donor’s pastimes.
Timothy Lewis is now healthy and giving back by volunteering at UMMC and educate others about organ donation.
“I received life, and it is my mission to give that back to others,” said the 53-year-old heart transplant recipient.
That mission for Timothy Lewis came after a friend's suggestion to take a free heart screening in January 2012.
It led to the discovery that his heart was functioning at only 25 percent.
"I had no idea that I was that sick," said Lewis. "I had just finished playing basketball at our church the week prior with a group of young people".
In December 2013 at Houston Methodist Hospital, Lewis’s right ventricle failed. He was in the ICU for 30 days.
"I was literally sitting there waiting on someone to die so that I could live," said the Jackson resident.
In late December, Brendan Russey died in an accident giving Lewis his second chance at life.
“They cut my heart out of my chest and this 18-year-old young man died out of Austin and his mom decided to give me his heart,” he said.
The former Hinds County Board of Supervisors Purchasing Director’s life transformed.
In 2017, he had a sudden desire to bake, starting with homemade pizza, now cakes.
In a letter from Russey's mother, Lewis learned it was his donor's passion.
“He loved to bake and I understand when he graduated from high school, he was going to take up some culinary classes,” said the novice baker.
He shares his culinary creations with family, friends and workers at UMMC.
Another outlet for Lewis now is speed walking.
He has won numerous gold, silver and bronze medals in local competitions and the Transplant Games of America 8K.
Those awards he custom frames and gives to Russey's mother Jackie.
“I want her to know without the gift of life that she gave me, I wouldn’t be able to do the things that I’m doing right now,” added the athlete and baker.
Lewis’s wife, Teila, works at UMMC as a customer service representative for the Cardio Vascular ICU.
Both volunteer at the medical center.
While her husband is in the room encouraging patients and sharing his story, she is outside with their families giving them hope and sharing the message about their journey to recovery.