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SALT LAKE CITY -- After losing his wife to a failed heart transplant a decade ago, one man is staying true to his vows by helping other heart transplant patients get a second chance.
Mike Tittinger has one mission: to walk across the country to raise money for a scholarship fund to support heart transplant patients. And on his long walks, Tittinger discovers several things, one step at a time.
"It's almost meditative," Tittinger said. "You just focus on the positive."
I guess it's a second chance for me in a way. I'm kind of reinventing my life and where I was at. I wasn't really happy with the road I was on.
Tittinger is now taking a long walk back to his wife's final resting place.
"Once this idea came along, it was like, ‘yeah, that's what I need to do.' " Tittinger said. "I needed to give back."
Deanna Tittinger was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at 10 years old, but defied expectations and lived into her late 20s. But unfortunately, Deanna did not survive a heart transplant to extend her life.
"This whole journey I don't look at as a memorial, but as a celebration of second chances," Mike Tittinger said. "I want to remember. So, I'm actually walking back to where I came from -- where I left ten years ago."
Tittinger is now happily remarried and works in the newspaper industry. But, he said, he was ready to shake things up a little bit.
"I guess it's a second chance for me in a way," he said. "I'm kind of reinventing my life and where I was at. I wasn't really happy with the road I was on."
Tittinger now walks to help others. The pace is slow, but Tittinger said crossing the country at three miles per hour pales in comparison to a transplant patient's epic road to recovery.
"It's long. It's day in, day out," he said. "You can't even think about the long term. You've just got to keep fighting every day and struggle -- stay in the moment. You can't get overwhelmed by three months from now."
The money he raises from walking is dedicated to a scholarship fund to help heart transplant recipients and their families as they rebuild their lives and rekindle their dreams put on hold.
"It's really just a matter of staying positive and focusing on positive thoughts," Tittinger said.
Now five weeks and more than 500 miles into his cross country exodus, Tittinger plans to travel from fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco to Ocean City, New Jersey. He expects to make it to the Atlantic Ocean by Thanksgiving and expects to wear through about six pairs of shoes throughout his journey.
To learn more about Mike's scholarship fund, visit www.mikeywalks.com.