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Dad’s new heart beats strong for daughter’s wedding

IU Health Methodist Hospital

Dad’s new heart beats strong for daughter’s wedding

This father of the bride was recovering from a heart transplant and almost missed his daughter’s big day, but there he was, ready to walk her down the aisle.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer,

Sierra Haddix didn’t really want to cry ugly tears on her wedding day, but who could blame her when she locked arms with her dad as he walked her down the aisle.

It’s a moving tradition in the best of times, but this day almost didn’t happen as she had dreamed because her father was recovering from a heart transplant.

Sierra Haddix and father crying together

Jason Haddix, 46, of Greenfield, was admitted to IU Health Methodist Hospital last March to wait for a heart. He was matched with a donor heart on July 4 and underwent transplant surgery performed by Dr. Kashif Saleem on July 5.

Sierra was fully prepared to postpone the wedding if her dad couldn’t be there, she said, but he didn’t want her to do that.

“If he was not out of the hospital in time, we were going to do the ceremony in his hospital room,” she said.

After recovering in the hospital for several weeks, Jason continued daily rehab at IU Health’s Center of Life for Thoracic Transplant.

It was at times grueling and exhausting, but he had a singular goal that kept him going: He was determined to be strong enough to dance with his daughter on her wedding day.

Jason completed that program, ringing the bell at COLTT on Sept. 8, the day before his daughter’s wedding to Preston Adkins.

Sierra Haddix and Jason Haddix walking down isle

And lucky for him, the weather cooperated for the outdoor ceremony in Knightstown, Indiana.

“I felt good,” he said. “It wasn’t too hot or humid. The physical therapy team at the hospital did a great job, really working with me and motivating me, and the COLTT team also did a great job, knowing this was one of my goals.”

The former firefighter/paramedic was diagnosed with congestive heart failure about 20 years ago but had managed the disease with medication and diet until earlier this year.

By then, life was becoming harder and harder to live.

“My wife and I took a trip last year to Italy. We had to walk a lot, and I would have to stop a lot to catch my breath,” he said. “I got tired of being tired and missing out on things.”

He definitely didn’t want to miss his daughter’s big day, so he worked hard to be ready for all the duties required of the father of the bride.

“It was honestly inspiring to see how much he pushed himself every single day,” Sierra said. “It was really awesome to have that special moment with him at my wedding.”

Especially the father-daughter dance.

The two danced to the country song “She’s Somebody’s Daughter,” and Jason is pretty sure he wasn’t the only one crying.

“Physically, it went well,” he said. “Emotionally, I was a wreck.”

Jason and Sierra Haddix standing outside

Sierra will never forget it.

“He was super strong and very emotional,” she said. “This is all we’ve been worried about for months, and we made it.”

Still, that walk down the aisle was a big step for both father and daughter.

“I was so nervous,” she said. “Right before we walked down the aisle, I said, ‘Don’t let me fall! And you can’t fall either.’ It lightened the mood.”

With his new heart, Jason said he is eager to put sickness behind him and embrace life. He also wants to help others in the transplant community.

“This is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with,” he said. “If there’s anything I can do to be a resource for patients and families, I want to be able to help them out.”

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