Polly Helm teaches a class at Cocoa Beach Health and Fitness Center. In 2014, Helm received a heart transplant that saved her life. (Photo: Provided)
As we near Thanksgiving, it’s a time of year where many are grateful for family, friends, good health and the blessings bestowed upon them.
Such is the case for one of our own Cocoa Beach Health and Fitness family members, Polly Helm.
It’s not often that you get a second chance at life, but for Polly, that’s exactly what she got.
For more than 30 years Polly has taught group fitness classes in our area.
Always positive, thoughtful and dedicated, she’s one of those special people that goes above and beyond for her fitness followers.
Monthly birthday parties, personal phone calls to folks who have been missing for a while, and hosting an annual luncheon for our seasonal residents before they head back north, are just a few of the things that make her stand out among the rest.
Always the epitome of great health, Polly taught close to 20 fitness classes each week, in addition to her hobby, which happens to be running local 5Ks and half marathons.
In 2014, life threw her the ultimate curve ball.
The 53 year-old contracted a virus that attacked what makes her so special — her heart.
The doctors said she’d need a heart transplant in order to live and within weeks she went to the ICU to wait for a donor.
During the next few weeks, the positive blessings and miracles began. Prayers, support, and encouragement poured in for our beloved Polly.
I remember speaking with her many times during this uncertain, traumatic period, and not once did her demeanor show how scared she probably really was.
Polly remained steadfast to her faith that things would work out just fine.
Also during this time, Polly’s daughter, Kirby, drove down from North Carolina in order to have her mother be a part of her wedding.
The hospital staff wheeled Polly down attached to life support machines to the hospital chapel for the ceremony. With the sudden change of life plans, the family made the most of a dire situation.
A tragic death of one can become a second chance for another, and that’s what happened a few weeks later that December when they found her a match.
In the U.S., 110,000 men, women and children are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants.
Even the largest football stadium in the U.S. could not fit the number of patients on the national transplant waiting list (The University of Michigan can accommodate 107,601).
The need for transplants, in general, is dire and luckily our beloved Polly became a heart transplant recipient on Dec. 6, 2014.
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Being in great shape pre-surgery paid off for this spunky lady as her body took in the new heart; she recovered fairly quickly.
A few months later, in February, we held a festive welcome back party for her and her followers to express our love and gratitude to still have her with us.
By October of that year, Polly felt strong enough to start teaching again, and though she’s not running, she does walk to build her strength.
In fact, she is planning to walk her first half marathon this year since the transplant to raise awareness for organ donation.
Over the past six years, Polly has endured many painful follow-up procedures to ensure her heart continues to tick properly and there’s no guarantee how long her heart will continue to beat, but what is certain is that she’s left a lasting footprint on the hearts of all that she’s interacted with through her positive, strong and generous spirit.
As Polly says, “a mile is a mile, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you go as long as you get there.”
A good motto for us all to live by and remember during this hectic, but festive time of year.
If you haven’t signed up to be an organ donor, but want to find out more or become one, click on this link.
Jim McCormick has been the owner of Cocoa Beach Health and Fitness since 2008 and has been a resident of Brevard County since 1970.
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