John 6:2~And a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick


At times, I reflect on my career and wonder where all the years have gone. Recently, I was outside the Heart Transplant office, when I noticed a group of medical students gathered in animated conversation around a large portrait of some of our early heart transplant babies. I have seen this photograph, taken in 1989, in many places around the campus, and, also, in my travels around the world. It features Leonard Bailey, LLUSM class of 1969, looking down on 18 wiggly babies.

As I stopped to talk with these curious medical students, I realized that they too, were babies at the time this photograph was taken. Those little patients in the photo represent the beginning of heart transplantation at Loma Linda University Medical Center, and I enjoyed sharing their stories with the medical students. The story of heart transplantation did not stop with those babies. We were blessed with good outcomes and, since 1985, more than 500 children have now received new hearts at LLUMC!

These children came to Loma Linda from Japan and England, Spain and Italy, and from all over Canada and America, all with the same desperate hope-to be given a chance to live well. To achieve this goal takes a miraculous partnership with hundreds of individuals who are committed to excellence every hour of the day and night. Many of us in this Loma Linda University medical team have made a lifetime commitment to heart surgery and heart transplantation, and we have essentially “grown up” together.

In my 40 plus years with this team, I have been witness to many everyday miracles in the lives of these children. I have seen God’s caring spirit in a colleague’s tender touch or a softly spoken prayer. I have been aware of God’s intervention when conventional wisdom seemed to have failed. And although we set out as a team of healers to help these children, we ourselves, as caregivers, have also been richly blessed in this process of healing.

As I said “goodbye” to these young medical students who are just beginning their professional careers, I hope and pray that their future in medicine will allow them to reflect back with gratitude and contentment, and that their profession will bring them closer to God.

Joyce Johnston Rusch, LLUSN class of 1971, is a heart transplant coordinator at the LLUMC Heart Transplant Institute.