Dr. Campbell: Golfer makes Open after 2 heart transplants
by Dr. Kevin Campbell
RALEIGH, N.C. -
This week, Pinehurst and North Carolina will be serving as the center of the golf world with the U.S. Open starting Thursday. Among the participants will be Erik Compton, a survivor of two heart transplants.
At age 9, Compton developed a viral infection that unfortunately affected his heart. Many common viruses can cause this problem, but normally they are self-limited and do not affect the heart. In Compton's case, the viral infection resulted in a viral myocarditis (or inflammation) of the heart muscle. This resulted in a severe weakening of his heart muscle. In 1992, at age 12, he had a heart transplant. He worked hard and recovered and has led a completely normal life. Compton went to the University of Georgia on a golf scholarship and was very successful.
He turned professional in 2001 and has played on the Nationwide Tour, the Canadian Tour, and now the PGA Tour. In 2007, he had a heart attack in the transplanted heart and again developed a severely weakened heart muscle. Six months later he had his second heart transplant. "I've been through some tough times," Compton told The Associated Press Wednesday in Pinehurst. "I'm just happy to be out here playing and feeling strong."
He added, "There's something to be said for going through what I've gone through. When you step on the tee, you're not intimidated by other people, you're not intimidated by the situation."
Last year there were 2,500 transplants performed nationwide. So far this year there have been 387 transplants nationwide. There is a significant number of people who die each year while waiting for a suitable organ. Organs must be carefully matched and some matches are easier to find than others. In North Carolina last year there were 117 transplants performed.
Donors are desperately needed. A nationwide organ procurement and sharing organization known as UNOS helps match organs with patients on the waiting list. There is a priority system based on how sick the patient is and how close to death they may be. It is particularly difficult to find organs for certain blood types and for children. In North Carolina it is simple to register—you designate organ donor on your drivers license.
As far as things that we can do to help, make sure to register to be an organ donor. Help promote awareness and help save a life one day by donating organs to others.