Walking across the country to raise awareness for transplant patients | NevadaAppeal.com

Walking across the country to raise awareness for transplant patients

Geoff Dornan/Nevada AppealMike Tittinger, right, is walking across the United States to raise funds and awareness for heart transplant patients in memory of his late first wife Deanna. His wife Brooke, left, is his support crew on the journey.

Mike Tittinger says he just felt like there was something missing from his life – something not quite settled.

That something, he discovered, stemmed from the death of his wife Deanna a decade ago after a failed heart transplant.

“It just kind of dawned on me it had been 10 years,” he said. “Life was good but there was a hole.”

What Tittinger settled on to fill that hole was to walk across the United States to raise both money for heart transplant patients and awareness of the struggles their families face.

“It was a small idea that just kept growing,” he said. “Pretty soon I couldn’t think of anything else.”

His journey, accompanied by his wife Brooke, began June 18 when he set off from Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco.

Brooke, who is studying to become a music therapist, is his support crew. She said unlike Tittinger’s first wife, who was diagnosed with cardio myopathy at age 10, “we both are blessed with good health.”

“We were looking to give back,” she said.

So they created the Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund – named after Deanna’s imaginary childhood friends -to collect money for heart transplant patients, their spouses and children.

He said it’s also an opportunity to raise awareness about transplants and convince more people to become donors. He said a single donor can help as many as 50 patients.

“That’s what the walk is all about,” he said. “A transplant really puts a lot of lives on hold.”

“A transplant is a second chance to live, a second chance to dream,” he said.

Mike and Brooke took a day off in Carson City Monday, among other things touring the state capitol.

But he said the walk resumes this morning – at 8 a.m. from in the front of the capitol.

“Anyone who wants to walk with us is invited to come,” he said.

Tittinger will head east along Highway 50 across Nevada and into Utah. He said his journey will take him eventually to Philadelphia where he and Deanna were from originally and end at Ocean City New Jersey.

“I’m shooting for Thanksgiving but Christmas is probably more realistic,” he said.

Those wishing to follow his journey can do so on Facebook or Twitter. Contributions can be made to the Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund through Tittinger’s website at mikeywalks.com. He said all contributions go to the fund, not to him.