A ‘heartaversary’

Since recieving her heart transplant, Watson has signed up close to 6,000 organ donors to carry on Bovill's legacy. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Watson.

Since recieving her heart transplant, Watson has signed up close to 6,000 organ donors to carry on Bovill’s legacy. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Watson.

Four years ago, Roxanne Watson lay in a critical care unit, awaiting a heart transplant she never thought would come. Watson had already been told three times they had found a match. When they came to her a fourth time, she remained skeptical.

However, this time was different. A team of doctors arrived in her room with a special machine to measure the cavities in her chest. They told her they had a prospective heart, but it was a heart of a male who weighed 180 pounds.

To avoid getting her hopes up, she told her heart transplant coordinator to call her when they found a heart. That call came on the night of July 15, 2010.

Roxanne Watson keeps this photograph of Coast Guardsman Michael Bovill on a wall in her room and carries it to each organ donor event. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Watson.

Roxanne Watson keeps this photograph of Coast Guardsman Michael Bovill on a wall in her room and carries it to each organ donor event. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Watson.

“She observes the Sabbath, so she doesn’t work on Fridays or Saturdays,” Watson said. “When she called me on a Friday night to tell me it was happening, that’s when I knew.”

The heart Watson received was that of Fireman Michael Bovill, a Coast Guard member serving at Station Eatons Neck, New York, whose life was cut tragically short in an off-duty motorcycle accident.

“He saved my life,” she said. “People always tell me, ‘You’re so lucky – you got the heart of a lifesaver.’”

For the past four years, Watson has dedicated herself to learning and sharing Bovill’s story, ensuring his legacy lives on. Since receiving his heart, Watson has learned about the different rates within the Coast Guard. The most important to her is the rate associated with helicopter maintenance – the rate Bovill planned to choose.

On her bedroom wall, Watson keeps a collection of framed photographs. The photographs are from those who support the organ donation cause and include Paula Deen, professional NFL players and Dr. Oz. Among the framed photos is a photograph of Bovill.

“I take Michael’s photo to every event that I do,” Watson said. “When people tell me what a blessing it is, I just show them the photo.”

Watson is also active at naturalization ceremonies and uses them as an opportunity to share the values of service to one’s country.

Roxanne Watson with the mother of another organ donor at her 'heartaversary' celebration. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Watson.

Roxanne Watson with the mother of another organ donor at her ‘heartaversary’ celebration. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Watson.

“I tell them, ‘Here is a person who served his country and continues to serve his country,’” she said. “We encourage each person to sign up to be an organ donor.”

After receiving her heart transplant, Watson made a goal to sign up as many people as she could to become organ donors. Her initial goal was 6,000.

“I’ve signed up 5,950 people – only 50 more to go,” she said.

Every year, Watson celebrates her ‘heartaversary’ with Michael. She invites a wide range of supporters and friends, including Bovill’s family. This year, Sen. David Carlucci was in attendance to show his support.

“I want to wish a very special happy birthday to Roxanne Watson,” Carlucci said. “This week was not only her birthday, it was the fourth anniversary of when she received a life saving heart donation from [U.S. Coast Guardsman] Michael Bovill. Since then, Roxanne has worked to sign up over 5,000 new organ donors throughout New York State. Our community is forever grateful for the service and life saving donation of [Coast Guardsman] Michael Bovill.”

Although Bovill’s family was unable to attend this year, Watson stays in close contact with them.

“We exchange messages every day,” she said. “I got one from Michael’s mother this morning that said ‘Thank you for carrying Michael’s story on.’”

For Watson, the thanks isn’t needed.

“There is nothing you can do but honor his gift – that’s the way I see it,” she said.

Sen. David Carlucci stands with Roxanne Watson and members of her family at the recent 'heartaversary' celebration. Photo courtesy of Sen. David Carlucci.

Sen. David Carlucci stands with Roxanne Watson and members of her family at the recent ‘heartaversary’ celebration. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Watson.

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