The Tennessean
Sunday, Oct. 10, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999
Marcia's Story     |   home
Part 1- Waiting for a donors gift   |   Part 2 - Transplant Day   |   Part 3 - Organs offer new hope   |   Part 4 - A testament to faith
Part 4 - A testament to faith

Marcia grins at her mother-in-law as she rejoices over
a new haircut. The visit to the hair salon is one of her first
ventures out in public since the surgery.

Photo by Lisa Nipp

Her heart longs for home
Story by Sylvia Slaughter
Fort bend county, Texas
There are no tumbleweeds in Needville ... just a few tumble-down shacks and modest little homes lovingly tended.
And the only cowboys here are 'gator-booted businessmen sitting high in their sport utility vehicles.
Usually, summer in Needville sears the soil and sucks the sweat right out of the skin.
But this is the land Marcia Roenigk loves.
She hasn't seen it in more than two years, while she waited for and later recovered from a life-saving heart-lung transplant at Vanderbilt University
Medical Center.
Marcia all but came out of the anesthesia talking about Texas.
Now, here she is in the Lone Star State with a welcome home served up Texas-style. Her mother has tied yellow ribbons on all the old and new oak trees on the rose farm where Marcia lives.
"Welcome home, Moose," Evelyn Hardin says, calling her daughter by the childhood nickname that has stuck through the years. "Welcome home, honey."
On the ride from her in-laws' home in nearby Sugar Land, Marcia gulps up all the sights.
A feed store here. A grain elevator there. Ruby's General Store down the way.
She spies the drive-in where she used to eat Texas Burgers on Wednesday nights because they were on special.
Later, she christens her homecoming with one.
When she does, she eats a 'burger the size of a Frisbee.
She's come a long way from the woman who knew nothing but ice chips for three days in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit following her transplant, the first of its kind at Vanderbilt in more than three years.
She tried then to eat the tip of a cracker, but was too sick to chew.
Indeed, the woman who jumps into her rubber wellies and heads out into the rain pouring down on her rose farm has come a long way from a pre-transplant day in the hospital when she was too bone-tired to turn the pages in a book.
And she's come a long way from the woman who struggled to take her first steps following her transplant, and said: "I feel like a log."
When Marcia was waiting for her transplant at VUMC, fellow transplant candidate Jerry Phillips had said that he knew of few husbands who love their wives the way Bob Roenigk loves Marcia.
The proof is here, in Needville, where Bob turned their 66 acres into a little Eden.
When Marcia told him one day that she wanted a covered bridge and a little chapel where she could go pray on the farm, she and Bob drew up the plans.
Bob flew home, hired a foreman and enlisted the help of Marcia's mom and his own mom to turn Marcia's wish into reality.
Now, Evelyn rings the chapel bell for all of Needville to know that her daughter is home and well at last.
Despite the gulf rains pounding down, Marcia doesn't want to leave the farm.
Soaking wet, she crosses the covered bridge, stops off in the chapel and tours the new building that will be her and Bob's home until they can afford to build a house in the back 40.
Then, the building will become the office from which they will sell their roses.
"I plan to put in a tea room, too," Marcia says, all energy and enthusiasm.
Her transplant worked.
"I see that I'll have a hard time just keeping up with her," Bob says.
He isn't complaining, mind you. He's rejoicing in the works of transplant surgeon Dr. Richard N. Pierson III and a higher being who he believes guided, and gifted, the surgeon's hands.
Were it not for his faith, and his mom and dad's faith, and Marcia's faith, and her family's faith, he has said, the transplant would have been all but insurmountable.
The operation and recovery were a long haul, sometimes straight up hill.
But the Roenigks seem to have reached the summit today.
"Oh, Bob," Marcia says, "we need a little pig and a big dog out here."
Bob laughs. He vetoes the former and approves the latter.
The transplant team had warned Marcia to avoid possible germ-bearing casual embraces ... from kisses and hugs to handshakes.
It's a hard rule to remember, though, when Marcia sees her best friend at the church in Houston, where they are having the rehearsal for Jan Brown's wedding.
Jan and Marcia run toward each other and end up in a big bear hug.
"You look wonderful. ... It's a miracle," Jan says. "You look so healthy."
"I am healthy," Marcia says. "And I am here."
When Marcia talked with her doctors at Vanderbilt earlier this year, she told them that she had to be transplanted and be at least halfway well by June 26. She had promised her best friend that she would be a bridesmaid.
The team hadn't even bothered to humor her then.
Donor organ matches don't come frequently, and when they do, the recipient has to be both sick enough to need them and strong enough to survive the surgery.
Marcia fit the description.
On Jan's wedding day, the pretty and pink Marcia really doesn't need much makeup. She believes her scar does, though.
She tries out a trick a friend back in Nashville had told her that models use.
They rub a dab of zinc oxide on an imperfection, let it dry, then cover the smudge with base.
Marcia blends base and sun block over the thin red line that runs from neck to navel.
"I'm trying to hide the evidence," she quips.
On their first Sunday home, Marcia and Bob attend Marcia's church, the First Baptist Church in Richmond, not far from their home in Needville.
Longtime friend Selma Meadows tells Marcia, "I can't look at you without crying. ... While you were sick, I couldn't look at the piano without crying. I'd remember how we had played those piano and flute duets together and, oh, you're home and I'm so happy."
When the pastor asks Marcia to speak, she walks to the podium.
"On the day of my transplant," she begins, "I never had a chance to pray. You guys were doing all the praying. ... There was another family involved, the family of the donor. Thanks for praying for them, too.
"My transplant came on a Saturday. Now, every Saturday I mark my new life. ... Pre-transplant, people asked me, 'How can you wait?' I knew that I could wait only because of Christ in me. ... I'm here to stay now. I'm here to work those roses. But mostly, I'm here to give God the glory."
When Marcia leaves the podium to return to her pew, congregants give her a standing ovation.
Marcia's brothers are crying. Bob's father is crying. Bob is swallowing hard.
After church, Bob and Marcia put on old clothes, rubber boots and baseball caps and walk hand-in-hand over their land.
Bob wears his baseball cap bill backward; Marcia wears hers forward. His, perhaps, is a metaphor for the past; hers, perhaps, a metaphor for the future.
Off in the distance, a cow moos. A car putt-putts past, pulling a boat. A bird sings.
The roses are blooming. The day lilies are blooming. The Texas bluebonnets are blooming.
Marcia is blooming, too.
Marcia now celebrates two birthdays.
On July 14, she turned 41. Next year, on April 10, she will be but 1.
She will put two candles on the cake, then. The first candle will be for the one-year anniversary of the day she received her new heart and lungs. The second will be for the selfless stranger who gave them to her.