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Heart and Kidney Transplant Patient to Ride in Rose Parade

Robert Hill, PhD, is Cedars-Sinai’s Donate Life Float Rider in the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade

Cedars-Sinai’s Donate Life Float Rider in the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade

When Robert Hill, PhD, arrived at the Cedars-Sinai Emergency Department in February 2017, he was suffering from pains in his stomach but expecting to be treated and sent home. Instead, Hill was told his heart was failing and without a transplant, he had about 48 hours to live. That dramatic news led to a several-month stay at Cedars-Sinai and, ultimately, a new heart and kidney.

Hill, who was 51 at the time, knew he had cardiomyopathy (a type of heart disease), but thought his condition was being well-managed with medication. He led a full and busy life as dean of student services at Glendale Community College and as father and stepfather to seven daughters.

Hill waited in his bed at Cedars-Sinai for more than two months for a heart. He remembers the wait as filled with emotional highs and lows and says he made it through with the support of his family and the Cedars-Sinai staff, who all wore bracelets bearing the words, “Hill Strong.”

Finally, when the heart transplant team felt they couldn’t wait any longer, they prepped Hill for an LVAD, a left ventricular assist device, to help keep his heart pumping until a donor heart became available. As Hill remembers it, he was wheeled into the operating room thinking he was getting an LVAD, and when he woke up, he found out he had received a new heart as well as a new kidney.

Today, nearly two years later, Hill says he’s doing great.

“I feel better than I have in 15 or 20 years,” Hill said. “I feel so blessed and so grateful to my surgeon, Joshua Chung, and to the nurses. I believe it was the hand of God that led me to the Cedars-Sinai Emergency Department that night.”

Of course, Hill’s gratitude extends to his donor and the donor’s family. Hill received a letter from the family and knows his donor had a young daughter. Today, Hill is praying for the possibility of meeting them and hopes to start an educational fund for the little girl.

Hill will represent the Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Transplant Center on the 2019 Donate Life Tournament of Roses parade float on Jan. 1. His family will be there to cheer him on. Hill says he believes that such a tremendous gift of life comes with responsibility, and that is why he is volunteering with transplant organization One Legacy.