Eric Skousen has led a rich and multi-faceted life – husband and father, physicist-engineer, tenured professor, author of best-selling books about energy and nuclear power, tour director in the Middle East, music composer and concert pianist. But at the age of 40, in January 1982, Eric’s life was threatened when his heart was weakened by an unknown cause.
“The electrical system in my heart shut down and my left ventricle was enlarged and increasingly growing weaker,” said Eric. “Suddenly, as my wife Cheryl would put it, I was 10 percent the man I used to be. At the time of my heart collapse, we had eight children who ranged in age from 15 to six months.” For the next 18 years, Eric lived precariously, supported by a host of pacemakers and medications.
The Pursuit of Medical Advances
During this prolonged period of struggle for Eric and his family, inventor and philanthropist James LeVoy Sorenson (1921-2008), with the support of his wife Beverley and their family, continued his lifelong pursuit of creating medical devices and approaches to save and improve lives.
Eric first became acquainted with the Sorenson family while he was courting Cheryl, who had known them since she was a teenager. “I never dreamed what a blessing they would be in my life four decades later,” he said. “Jim had been inventing and developing devices and services that directly or indirectly kept me alive.”
By September 1999, the volume of blood pumped out of the ventricles in Eric’s heart had plummeted, and he was directed to LDS Hospital for a heart transplant, which he received May 5, 2000.
“I immediately felt better, but complications over the next eight years prevented what I’d hoped would be a more complete recovery,” Eric recalled. “A severe infection that sometimes afflicts transplant recipients nearly took my life in 2001 and the medications I used to treat it compromised my kidneys.”
In 2006, his transplanted heart began to fail. “About the time I learned I needed a second heart transplant, the talents and generosity of Jim Sorenson and his family provided a new facility for just that purpose – the J. L. Sorenson Heart and Lung Center at the new Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.”
In addition to his need for a heart re-transplant, Eric’s kidney had been failing for seven years. He was listed for a heart re-transplant and a kidney transplant on February 15, 2008. To the astonishment of Eric and his family, Intermountain Medical Center found a donor in less than three months.
Eric’s surgery – the first heart-kidney transplant at Intermountain Medical Center – was an extraordinary success. “My implanted heart started right up and kept going without any assistance,” he recalled.
The Road to Recovery
Eric found the J. L. Sorenson Heart and Lung Center to be an ideal place for recovery. “I enjoyed a large, beautiful room with a huge window looking to the mountains in the southeast,” he said. “How that lifted my spirits. The wide halls, the carpeting, plants, wall paintings, the decor (with wonderful, pleasant color schemes), and the comfortable and convenient rest stops (with chairs and couches and TVs) made it more like a home than a hospital. What a wonderful place to heal!”
He also acknowledged the “great care” he received from the center’s staff – many of whom had worked with him during his earlier transplant before transferring to the new Intermountain facility – in helping reduce his ICU and cardiac recovery from two weeks in 2000 to nine days in 2008.
“The environment at Intermountain Medical Center has been invigorating to me,” Eric said. “The healing gardens, fountains and the statue in the main lobby of Jim Sorenson in full stride instill in me an uplifting hope for the future. I hope to be as active again as Jim looks in his statue – striding forward with purpose and gratitude for the gift of life.”
Only a week after returning home, Eric was composing and arranging original music again for the first time in many years, and he looks forward to a highly productive life in the years ahead.
“Surely, the legacy of the James LeVoy Sorenson family is to bless people like me, and by blessing me, to bless my family and friends,” said Eric. “Thank you to Beverly and her family – and to our friend Jim – from the bottom of my heart(s).”