In this phenomenological study, in-depth interviews were used to obtain a description of spouses’ experiences in heart transplantation. Thematic analysis of the transcripts revealed four major, interrelated themes: death-life, vigilance, change, and gift. The experience was contextualized by the existential grounds of time and other people. Findings suggested that the changes inherent in the transplant experience have not been fully described in previous studies. The theme of death-life was dominant and pervasive in all interviews. As the threat of their husbands’ deaths became less prominent, wives reported difficulty letting go of their vigilance. Although the most outstanding gift was that of the donor organ, spouses also gratefully remembered the donor and donor family. Time was not perceived as a boundary separating periods of the transplant experience; all aspects of time seemed to be woven seamlessly from the past through the present and into the future. Spouses were adamant that health care personnel should recognize them as coparticipants in the critical life event of cardiac transplantation.
- transplant surgery,