While golfing in September 2015, Panamanian baseball legend Rod Carew suffered a huge heart attack and had to be hospitalized for six weeks. He was fitted with a pump in his left ventricle, and doctors determined that he would eventually need a heart transplant. After months on the transplant list, Carew got his heart replaced in an Orange County hospital last December.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News wrote up the incredible story of Carew’s transplant this morning, and it’s a devastating account that’s worth your time. Carew’s donor was Konrad Reuland, a former NFL tight end who played for the Jets and Ravens after graduating from Stanford. Reuland died of a brain aneurysm on Dec. 12 while running on a treadmill in possible preparation for a spot NFL gig towards the end of the 2016-17 season. His kidneys, liver, and heart were donated to those who needed replacements, including Carew.
Reuland had met Carew years before, but his family was not aware that the Hall of Famer had been the recipient of a kidney and a heart from their son until friends pieced together the timeline and asked his mother Mary. She reached out to the Carews and the families have become very close since they connected. Reuland’s family has achieved a bit of solace in the wake of Konrad’s death, and Carew got an extension on life. As he described, waiting for a transplant was a daily horror:
“Every day I would cry,” the 1977 American League MVP said. “As soon as Rhonda left the hospital, I started crying. And then I started screaming. And when I got up in the morning and looked at the clock, it’d be 5 or 6 o’clock and I would start crying and I just couldn’t stop.”
“I think they forgot me,” he said.
Now, Carew often visits Reuland’s grave and is actively working with the American Heart Association to encourage people to get regular check-ups. Carew says that former Angels pitcher Clyde Wright heard his story and went to a check-up where doctors found serious blockage; they were able to perform a surgery which likely saved his life.
You can read the whole story over at the San Jose Mercury News.