By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Taber is talking on the phone while making dinner for his family.
“It’s Taco Tuesday,” he said, before quickly realizing it was Monday.
But tacos taste good any day of the week, and Taber was acting as head chef for his large family.
Cooking in his own kitchen is something the Bloomington-area husband and father of eight missed while inpatient for six months at Riley Hospital for Children, waiting for a new heart.
One year ago this month, Taber received that precious gift, and his family celebrated by making him a “heart-iversary” cake – decorated by his 13-year-old artistic daughter.
The past year has been spent re-establishing a routine, he said, remembering where all the light switches are in his house, and reminding himself how blessed he is.
“I’m trying to write a letter to my donor family. I don’t know what to say or how to say it. I think I’m overcomplicating it,” he said.
The best advice? Speak from the heart.
Just last month, Taber returned to full-time work. A chef by training, his current job is in an entirely different field. He is a certification officer for the Department of Workforce Development, primarily working remotely.
That doesn’t leave much time for building LEGO sets, something Taber was well-known for at Riley, but he has many of those creations displayed at home for the kids to enjoy.
Taber had been a congenital heart disease patient at Riley for years before his transplant, performed by Dr. Mark Turrentine. Post-transplant, the 45-year-old’s care has been transferred to IU Health Methodist Hospital, where he sees cardiologist Dr. Maya Guglin.
He has not suffered any signs of rejection, faithfully taking multiple medications daily to maintain his health.
With eight kids, the family is always on the move, he said, whether that involves traveling for speech and debate competitions, swimming or other activities.
Next month, Jeff and Jenny Taber’s oldest child will head off to college in Berea, Kentucky, a reality that hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
“Check back with me in August,” Taber said.
Meanwhile, as he adjusts to his job, and the younger kids get ready to go back to school, Taber is grateful, even on the hard days, for this second chance.
“We are just living life and moving forward.”
“Chef Jeff” cooks while he waits for a heart - Creative therapy helps this father of eight find joy as he marks months on the cardiac unit.
Bloomington father of 8 gets his new heart - Two weeks post-transplant, chef Jeff Taber, who endeared himself to younger patients on the Heart Center with his LEGO creations, is leaving Riley to continue cardiac rehab at COLTT.