Terry Zink’s skilled hands have turned logs into homes and furniture over the past four decades. But today he needs something that he can’t build – a new heart.
The Allegany resident is waiting for a life-saving heart transplant at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital. The Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation is the only comprehensive heart failure and transplant service in upstate New York. The team has performed 170 heart transplants.
“It’s not easy being inside all day, when I’ve worked outside all my life,” said 68-year-old Zink, who has been hospitalized since April 2013. He operated Zink & Watson Construction for many years. “Now I’m living at the hospital and it’s been a long road. I need to keep waiting because I won’t survive without a new heart.”
Allegany high school sweethearts, Zink and his wife, Glenna, are working to raise awareness of the need to increase the size of the donor registry in New York State, which has one of the lowest donor registry rates in the nation. In New York, there are 11,000 people waiting for organs, including 475 patients at Strong Memorial Hospital.
“Mr. Zink represents the many patients who are waiting for the gift of life, which can only be provided by donors and their families. We encourage everyone to have a discussion with their families to ensure their wishes are known,” said Rob Kochik, executive director of the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, UR Medicine’s organ procurement organization.
“We recommend everyone who has made the personal decision to join the registry actively talk about it with their families. This relieves them of the burden of having to make that decision and donors are ensured their wishes will be carried out,” Kochik said.
April is Donate Life Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about the vast need for organs.
To join the registry, go to www.donorrecovery.org.
Heart disease has plagued Zink and his family for years. His father died after heart valve replacement surgery and his brother suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 21.
In 1986, he suffered the first of two heart attacks and has been treated with medications, a pacemaker, defibrillator, stent, aortic valve replacement and triple bypass surgery. Zink recognizes he is lucky to have survived and praised primary care physician Annmarie Zimmerman, M.D., of Universal Primary Care in Olean, UR Medicine cardiologist Craig Narins, M.D., and transplant cardiologist Eugene Storozynsky, M.D., Ph.D., for their expertise.
Glenna, his wife of 49 years, has cared for him throughout his heart failure and is by his side in Rochester. She has been staying at Harbor House, which provides provide temporary lodging for families of adult critical care patients who live outside the Rochester area. It offers a “home-away-from-home” that eases the emotional and financial burdens on families.
The Zinks raised three children and enjoy 12 grandchildren.