I would like to dedicate this month’s newsletter to a very special person in my life. Her name is Heather Gothard. Many of you may remember Heather because she was a Dental Assistant and Health Learning Coordinator in my practice from 2002-2006. Heather was one of the bravest individuals I’ve ever met. She was super intelligent, wonderful with people, and a real joy with whom to work.
At the age of 32, Heather was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and the inability of her heart to pump blood to her brain. After many tests and several weeks in the hospital, it was determined that Heather could only live if she had a heart transplant. For the next three months, the doctors at St. Luke’s Texas Heart Institute tried desperately to stabilize Heather so that she could receive a heart transplant. She was to be sent home with an artificial heart while she waited for her name to become available for a heart transplant. You see, the unique thing about Heather was that, because of a genetic predisposition and her sensitive immune system, she couldn’t have just any heart; she had to have “the perfect” heart.
On the evening before she was to receive the surgery for the artificial heart, a “perfect” heart was made available and was at Hermann Memorial Hospital, just a few blocks away. The only hang-up was the fact that Heather was seventh on the transplant list. Early the next morning, Heather’s family was notified that the six people ahead of Heather had signed off on the heart so that Heather could receive the perfect heart. The heart transplant was successful and after another three weeks inpatient, Heather was able to go home, after almost 4 months of staying in the hospital.
Much prayer went up on behalf of Heather. I became very familiar with her caregivers at the Heart Institute because of so many visits to hospital after work. I would go by and hold her hand and talk to her, although most of the time she was unconscious.
After about six months of rehab, Heather returned to my office to work part-time. Her vibrant smile, her willingness to help, and her constant joking made all of us feel so comfortable. The days just seemed to pass with great ease. After about a year, Heather became ill and went through additional tests, thinking that it was heart or transplant related. However, this diagnosis was more critical- she had tumors in her abdomen. The doctors diagnosed her with cancer. Heather received all kinds of medications and treatments and even though she was ill and did not feel well, you never could tell by the way she lived her life. Shortly, after her new diagnosis, Heather became so ill she had to quit work. I could only see her on special occasions when she was in the Medical Center or would just come by the office to say “hello.”
On September 28, 2016, Heather lost her battle with cancer. My heart is extremely heavy as I write this tribute because of my deep respect and love for her. You see, when you’re involved in a practice such as mine and you share the work day with special people, you become very close to one another. You become family. Heather was always there when I needed her to stay late in helping with a case or to get to the office early to set up for a special procedure. She was a totally beautiful person and her captivating smile will be cherished in my heart’s memory for the rest of my life.
Heather was totally devoted to her daughter, Kendall, and her husband, Greg, as well as her best friend, Michelle. Many times Heather would bring Kendall by just for us to see how she had grown. Kendall is a phenomenal softball player and will probably get a college scholarship. Heather, even in the darkest of days, attended every game that Kendall played. No matter where the tournaments, Heather was always there.
Heather Gothard, mother of Kendall and wife of Greg, daughter of Ken Robbins, close friend, confidant, and cherished employee. We remember you.
Heather was 42 years of age.
Ronald C. Auvenshine, DDS, PhD
Diplomate, American Board of Orofacial Pain