LACONIA — They say that there's no wealth like health, and that's something John Ganong knows all too well. He can also affirm another truism: there is nothing so valuable in life as time.
Ganong, who ran a real estate office on Weirs Boulevard for many years, suffered congestive heart failure in 2003. Yet, he's still walking, talking and smiling, thanks to care provided to him by Tufts Medical Center, which fitted him with a heart transplant on Jan. 3, 2011. To show his appreciation, he has held an annual "Celebrity Bartender" benefit at Faro Italian Grille, where Ganong works the bar and donates all tips to a fund that assists other patients at the Cardiac Transplant Division at Tufts Medical Center.
This year's event will be held on Saturday, Jan. 9, beginning at 7 p.m. Ganong has raised about $8,000 in the previous four years combined, he hopes to eclipse $10,000 with this year's gains.
"We'll have some fun and raise some money," he said.
Ganong's ordeal began 12 years ago, with open-heart surgery to replace valves and repair damage, and the installation of a pacemaker. That fix lasted for about six years, until the left side of his heart collapsed and a pump was installed to keep his heart inflated. Ganong had to wear a vest containing a computer and battery pack to power the pump while he awaited a transplant.
"It was a tightrope walk for a pretty long time," he said, ending with his transplant at the beginning of 2011.
Ganong calls himself the "luckiest man you'll ever meet," and is glad to have an opportunity to celebrate his caregivers, his friends and the fellow cardiac patients he's met.
"It's all about the people in the area ... This area's incredible," he said, specifically thanking the owners and bartenders at Faro for hosting and helping put on the event.
"I've got the best of the best as far as surgeons, and the best of the best as far as friends. It all comes together that night," he said.
After all he's been through, Ganong now has a new view of life to go along with his new heart.
"I had the fastest motorcycles, I had the fastest cars. The fastest thing is life – don't blink," he said.
He knows his life very easily could have ended five years ago. Since then, he's been able to attend his daughter's wedding, watched a grandson race his dirt bike in Las Vegas, and met two other grandsons that were born since 2011.
"When you run out of time once, the rest of the time you have, you treasure it more. There's things that are more important than others that used to be not important ... Time is very important. We take it for granted."
He encourages everyone to attend the fundraiser on Jan. 9.
"It's an open house to everybody, please stop by," he said.
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