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InterView Magazine

The Cowboy with a Heart

Originally from Wisconsin,
70-year-old Norco resident Alan Matley is something of a cowboy
with his love of country and western music, animals, and the outdoors. When you call his phone, you’ll hear country music instead of a shrill ring.

        Matley tries to keep himself busy. He still works part-time supporting the Montclair Police Department.
        He also likes to spend time with his two daughters and five granddaughters, go for walks, go fishing, play poker, and tend to his small menagerie of animals. He has two horses, one of which is  the baby, Tally, and the other is called Cody, a name inspired by a conversation with one of his granddaughters. Matley also takes care of two cats, roughly 15 chickens, and his two faithful dogs, Maya and Peanut. He even owned a pot-bellied pig at one time. “I’ve always been an outdoor person, and I’ve got to have animals around,” he says.

        Matley’s love of animals and the outdoors makes Norco, often referred to as Horsetown USA,® a fitting place for him to make his home. Norco boasts 700 acres of open space, 130 miles of horse trails, horse shows every weekend, and
regular rodeos. It’s the perfect locale for a cowboy like Matley.
        Besides keeping active with his animals, Matley is also sure to watch what he eats. “I try to take care of myself as much as I can,” he says, “Because…I won the lottery in 1994.        
 A Change of Heart     
 Matley was only 37 when he had his first heart attack and 45 when he had his second. After his second heart attack, Matley’s heart was weakened and his body was not getting enough oxygen. The strains on his body disabled him for the next 20 years. Still, even though he had to stop and catch his breath after walking just 15 feet, he continued to stay active the best way he could. Over the course of his life he has had 15 angiograms and four angioplasties, and he has stents in both sides of his neck. 
        Through it all, he managed to stay positive. “Even when I was having my heart attacks and my bypass operations… I never considered myself sick,” he remembers.
        Then, in 1994, a 16-year old boy was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.
From that tragedy, something incredible was made possible, and Matley received the boy’s heart through a transplant operation at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood. “I’m like a walking miracle,” he says.
        On a Thursday, Matley was given a beeper and instructions to keep it with him at all times, even in the bathroom, so he could be ready for the call if a new heart was available. “This was before cell phones,” he remembers. The following Monday he received the call and headed to the hospital with his daughters. It has been almost 19 years, but Matley still remembers that they took him to the sixth floor of the hospital and that there was an earthquake before they wheeled him into the operating room. As he lay there, the nurse asked what kind of music Matley liked. “Western,” he answered. She gave him a small, white pill and he was out almost instantly. His next memory was waking up on Tuesday to the sound of his daughter’s voice, with a new heart beating in his chest.
        Matley doesn’t take the second chance he has been given lightly. “My job is to take care of that heart,” he says. What is most important, according to Matley, is making sure to stay active, eat right, and take his medicine daily.
 December will mark 19 years since Matley received his heart transplant, his “19th birthday” as his doctors affectionately call it. “I have the best doctors that I could ask for,” Matley says, of his doctors at both Cedars Sinai and Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.
  Listen to Your Heart      
        Matley appreciates what a rare and special opportunity he received. He does his best to make every day of his second chance at life count.
        Even when his health was at its most difficult Matley did not feel sorry for himself, choosing instead to keep his thoughts and attitude optimistic. He has cultivated this positivity into a philosophy that he lives by today. “I don’t want to be that person laying in bed saying ‘why didn’t I do this?’ I just want to say, ‘I did this.’”
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