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"Our lives were forever changed by the Utah Heart Failure Transplant team." A grateful family of a former patient honors his caregivers.

Tom and Konan Carrigan

Tom and Konar Carrigan

When Thomas Carrigan passed away in April this year, his obituary read, "On June 27, 2005…our lives were forever changed by the Utah Heart Failure Transplant team. These angels gave us eight more wonderful years."

During the eight years from Tom's successful heart transplant to his death this year from another medical condition, he spent time doing what he loved: working, gardening and being with his family—especially his five grandchildren.

"Whenever Tommy came to the hospital, he always asked to be put on the 3rd floor, with the heart failure team," says his wife, Stephanie. "That was Tommy's floor. The nurses there are astounding! They were wonderful to us. I could go home and leave Tommy there, knowing that he would be well cared for. It gave me real peace of mind."

The extraordinary care they received during Tom's illness prompted Stephanie and her family to request that in lieu of flowers, friends and family could contribute to the Heart Failure and Transplant program through the Intermountain Research and Medical Foundation. As a patient, Tom participated in medical research studies to help advance understanding of heart failure. "I believe in advancing medical research," says Stephanie. "It's something Tom did, and we want to keep it going."

Friends and family responded to the "in lieu of flowers" request, but the giving didn't end there.

Tom and Stephanie's youngest son, Konar, was attending Copper Hills High School. His friends in biology heard about Konar's dad passing away and wanted to do something to let him know they were thinking of him. His teacher suggested that class members pool their funds and make a contribution to Konar's favorite charity. Konar didn't hesitate when he was asked: he wanted to honor the caregivers in the Heart Failure and Transplant program at Intermountain Medical Center.

Konar helped care for his dad throughout his illness. Earlier this year Konar enrolled in home school so he could spend as much time with Tom as possible. Over the years, Konar learned how to change dressings, feeding tubes and batteries on a Left Ventricular Assist Device or LVAD. He was taught how to read monitors and knew if a change in vital signs signaled the need for action. Because of his experience, he has decided to pursue a career in medicine. He'll start in the CNA program during his junior year at Copper Hills and complete a medical assistant program as a senior. He then plans to go to college, possibly to become a heart transplant physician.

"My dad was an amazing man," Konar says. "He suffered a lot during those years, but he always put others first. Even when he was hooked up to a feeding tube, he would still cook dinner for the rest of us. I want to be just like him."