“This is the season of miracles”

Patient Stories |


Omarr web 1

After 400 days in the hospital, “Brother O” has a new heart and a renewed passion for life.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Omarr Gadling was watching the clock before he walked out of Riley Hospital for Children on Monday.

At precisely 12:40 p.m. Dec. 19, he marked 400 days inpatient at Riley, first waiting for, then recovering from, a heart transplant.

He was itching to leave for sure. Never mind the crowd of nurses, doctors, therapists, fellow patients and parents who lined the hallway to wish him well – 400 days was long enough.

“I’m feeling great, ready to go,” he said.

Gadling, 47, is older and taller than your average Riley patient, but his weak heart landed him in the children’s hospital, which has an experienced team of specialists who follow patients with congenital heart defects from infancy well into adulthood.

Patience, prayer and poetry have gotten him through the long days and nights in the hospital.

Riley heart center nurse Julia Doyle Burgess showed the backpack jammed with Gadling’s notebooks of poetry, all of it scrawled in longhand since he was first admitted back in November 2021.

Forty pounds of poetry, Burgess estimated, as she pulled it and Gadling’s other possessions in a red wagon through the crowd of well-wishers on 3W.

“Thanks for letting me take care of you, Omarr,” she said. “You’ve always been such a blessing to care for.”

Gadling’s passion for poetry earned him the 2022 National Spoken Word Award for Overcomer of the Year, presented to him last month during a surprise visit to Riley by members of P.O.E.T. (People of Extraordinary Talent).

Known as “Brother O” to his poetry friends and fans, he co-hosts a radio show, “Voices Behind the Pens,” and looks forward to returning to his home in East Chicago.

“Right now, the goal is healing up, getting stronger, going home, working on poetry and someday being on my own.”

On Monday, wearing a Purdue Boilermakers sweatshirt and a shy smile, Gadling couldn’t wait to start the next chapter in his life post-transplant as he made a beeline for the elevator.

Behind Gadling was his mom, Carlean, who will stay with him in Indianapolis for the next several weeks while he completes rehab at COLTT (Center of Life for Thoracic Transplant) at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

“This is the season of miracles,” she said, as she watched her son head out the door of his hospital room.

Among those waiting were Gadling’s cardiologist, Dr. Robert Darragh, and transplant coordinator, Debbie Murphy, who have guided Gadling through the ups and downs of the past 400 days.

“It’s a team effort,” Dr. Darragh said, but he couldn’t have been more pleased to see Gadling take his turn as the celebrity discharge of the day. “He’s seen a lot of these over the last year.”

While many of those patients and parents cheering Gadling on likely were wondering when their day would come, the sight of someone going home always brings hope.

The keys are patience and prayer, Carlean Gadling said.

“I believe there’s always a rainbow at the end of a storm. If you have strong faith, it’s coming.”

But she reminded her son, “For you to get a heart, somebody had to lose their son. Never forget that. And take good care of the heart that you’ve been given.”

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org

Previous stories:

A surprise visit to “Brother O” comes straight from the heart - A Riley adult heart transplant patient gets a boost from members of his Chicago poetry family, who traveled to Indianapolis to present him with a special award.

Related Doctor

related doctor headshot photo

Robert K. Darragh, MD, FACC, FAAP

Pediatric Cardiology