The Tin Man knew there could be a day like this, if he only had a heart.
Not a cloud in the sky and the sun flashing off his polished funnel hat and the red plastic heart dangling from his neck roughly marking the spot where the trouble began. The Tin Man's real heart filled with good will as he stood outside Marley Elementary School in Anne Arundel County yesterday afternoon waving and smiling as the youngsters walked by in their Halloween costumes.
When the Grim Reaper approached with scythe aloft, the Tin Man smiled and let Death walk by. What else could a heart transplant patient do?
The Rev. David S. Payne of Glen Burnie, president of the Marley Elementary Parent-Teachers Association, had been facing his own mortality all summer and into the fall. From July through October he lay in an intensive care unit at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore with medication flowing into him through intravenous tubes and his hopelessly damaged heart thumping in shallow beats, a shade of its vigorous self.
The enlargement of the heart was first diagnosed in September 1988 and Mr. Payne, now 39 years old, was forced to retire from the post office. In five years, this former college football player and wrestler felt his strength ebb and his breath grow short.
The doctors never did figure out what caused Mr. Payne's heart muscle to deteriorate so badly. Perhaps it was a virus, they said. Whatever the cause, the heart could pump less than half the blood Mr. Payne needed to function. By the time Mr. Payne was admitted to the cardiac care unit in July, there was a 50 percent to 70 percent chance he would die within a year without a heart transplant.
So his name went on the waiting list, joining a roster of some 2,800 people who at any one time in the United States are waiting for a second chance at life in the form of a heart transplant.
The chance came in mid-October. A young man in Maryland had died of trauma. That's all Mr. Payne ever knew. The transplant surgery went a bit more than four hours on the afternoon of Oct. 13.
Soon after Mr. Payne was moved to a regular room to TTC recuperate, the walls of his room were festooned with get well cards from youngsters at Marley Elementary, where his 7-year-old daughter, Daria, attends second grade.
There were drawings of pumpkins and smiling faces and one invitation to attend the school's annual Halloween parade:
"I'm going to be a ninja for Halloween," one boy wrote. "What will you be?"
Mr. Payne, the associate minister at New Bethlehem Free Will Baptist Church in Baltimore, wasn't sure if he'd be released from the hospital in time. But he was certain what his costume would be.
A card he received from the St. Peter's Christian Life Center in Baltimore gave him the inspiration. The card mentioned the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.
"I thought it would be nice to go as the Tin Man," said Mr. Payne. "The Tin Man outfit is so symbolic."
He spoke from his hospital bed Thursday, the day before he was released. He had already walked two miles around the hospital corridors that morning for a total of nearly 12 miles this week. More than he'd walked in the previous five years.
"This is the first full day in three months I have no wires on me, no monitors," said Mr. Payne, a gregarious man with a ready smile. "I feel wonderful."
With the help of folks at the Christian Life Center, Mr. Payne put together his Tin Man costume: a silver jogging suit, a shiny funnel for his head and a plastic heart to hang on his chest. He wrapped his shoes in tin foil and drove with his wife, Patricia, to the school. In this get-up he began the first day of a new life.
This man who gets such joy from sharing the Gospel intends to spend time spreading the word about the need for organ donors. He plans to work with the Wendy Marx Foundation for Organ Donor Awareness, a Washington-based organization. According to group founder Jeffrey Marx, six people die every day in the United States waiting for organ transplants.
"I've been given this new heart, I have the credentials for speaking," said Mr. Payne. "I think I can do a lot of good in the African-American community" where the need for organ donors is especially acute.
The public relations campaign began yesterday, in the cool autumn air outside Marley Elementary School, as Mr. Payne stood out front watching about 500 youngsters file by: witches, ghosts, Grim Reapers, ninjas, cats and clowns, vampires and devils.
"Hey, Tin Man" said one boy.
"The Tin Man's got a heart," said another.
"Thanks for the cards," said the Tin Man. "The cards helped a lot."