Racing Against Time, Man Waits at Top of Transplant List
Posted February 15, 2001
CHAPEL HILL — At 35 years old, no one should have to think about dying. But Randall Benifield does every day while he waits for a life-saving transplant.
Benifield needs a new heart and lungs -- not one or the other, but both. They must match his type-O blood. Every day is a life-and-death struggle.
"People that are waiting for transplants deal with death on a daily basis," he said. "We honestly don't know if there will be a tomorrow."
Benifield was born with a heart problem, becoming sick 10 years ago. Doctors in Charlotte, his hometown, could not help. Benifield turned to UNC Hospitals, one of 17 facilities that would put him on a transplant list.
Currently, Benifield is at the top of the list -- he got there when someone else died waiting.
Benifield will probably die before he gets his transplant, but he is alive today after beating the odds. He credits his marriage for keeping alive this long.
When his wife, Debbie, took the vow "in sickness and in health" 12 years ago, she did not know she would be living it so soon.
"I thought marriage was going to be happy, and it is," she said, "but to see your husband suffer every day, it's very hard."
The Benifields say that they do not pray for an organ donor to die. Instead, they just wait and pray that Randall will hold on until the organs come.
"I'm going to have to endure a lot more pain to reach the long-term goal," he said. "The pain of rehab, the pain of the transplant -- but the long-term goal is what you set your sights toward. The end of the journey."