Worcester County

‘Massive heart failure’: Local transplant patient grateful for stranger who drove him to operation

OXFORD, Mass. — We all get by with a little help from our friends, so it can be a problem when none of them are around in an emergency.

That’s what happened to David Kornwolf of Oxford when he got a call the heart he was desperately waiting for was suddenly available.

“I had massive heart failure and there was nothing they could do. The inside of my heart was ripped apart,” he said.

He needed a ride to Tufts Medical Center in Boston which is more than 50 miles from his home.

One problem was that Kornwolf had just bought a new phone and had lost all his contacts.

His replacement heart also became available on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. He couldn’t find an Uber and a car service he had previously contacted in Worcester wasn’t available.

Then he found a business card he had received from Jay Toland while he had been in the hospital.

It was the only time the two men had met.

Toland had a heart transplant six months ago and is now an ambassador for Heart Brothers, a Marlboro-based non-profit that provides all kinds of support to transplant patients and their families.

“I said, ‘Look I don’t know if you remember me,’ and he did. And I said ‘I hate to bother you. It’s Labor Day Sunday, 4:30 in the afternoon, but can you please give me a ride? I’ll give you a couple hundred bucks’,” recalled Kornwolf. “He said ‘Man you owe me nothing. I’ll be there in 20 minutes.’ Jay came out of the goodness of his heart and gave me a ride to Tufts. He brought me there, showed me around, took me all the way up, went through the whole process to get checked in. The whole nine yards.”

Toland says Kornwolf’s call gave him chills because when he was in the hospital for 194 days waiting for his heart, he had promised himself if he made it out alive he wanted to give back.

“If it wasn’t for Jay, truthfully, I don’t think I’d have my heart today,” Kornwolf said.

Kornwolf also plans to become an ambassador for Heart Brothers once he’s well enough.

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