On March 6, 1997, Liz Truxaw received horrifying news: Her 12-year-old son Chris collapsed due to cardiac arrest. Paramedics immediately rushed him from his school to the hospital.
Doctors put Chris in a medically induced coma for two weeks at Rady Children’s Hospital to help save his life. After several tests, he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease in which the heart muscle thickens and the heart struggles to pump blood.
“I couldn’t believe it,” says Liz. “Chris had just been skiing the weekend before, and he was an avid rock climber. A few days later, I am looking at my son in a coma.”
While many people with the condition have no symptoms, some develop sudden cardiac arrest or heart failure. “My husband and I never knew Chris had a heart condition,” says Liz. “He was a relatively healthy child and there were no signs that he was sick.”
Liz soon learned that Chris needed a heart transplant. At the time, Rady Children’s had no heart transplant program, so Liz and her husband wondered if Chris had to travel elsewhere — even out of state — for the procedure.
Fortunately, while Chris was on the transplant waiting list, he and his parents were relieved to learn there was a matching donor and his surgery could be performed at Sharp Memorial Hospital in collaboration with Rady Children’s.
A new heart and new lease on life
On June 13, 1997, three months after he was hospitalized, Chris received a heart transplant. His surgery was performed by Dr. Robert Adamson, a cardiothoracic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group and Sharp Memorial.
After his transplant, Chris had follow-up appointments at Rady Children’s. When he turned 20 years old, he transitioned to seeing doctors at Sharp Memorial, including Dr. Peter Hoagland.
Since receiving his heart transplant, both Chris and Liz have participated in events held by Transplant Games of America, an organization that hosts sporting activities for organ donors, recipients and loved ones.
“Throughout the years, I have volunteered at the events, and Chris has spoken at one of them,” says Liz. “I will be volunteering for this year’s games that will take place in San Diego during the summer.”
Chris, now 38, has also become close with his heart donor’s family. He feels incredibly lucky to have gotten to know them. “When I got married, my donor’s mother came to my wedding,” he says.
Both Chris and his mother are grateful that Chris was able to receive a heart transplant. Saying that organ donation means gifting someone with life, he believes it’s the most powerful gift someone can give. “I owe my life to my donor, and I would not be here without him,” he says.
Liz echoes Chris’ sentiments. She can’t believe this year is the 25th anniversary of his transplant. “It truly is a blessing and a miracle, and it’s allowed him to go to college and get married,” she says. “Sharp’s transplant team was phenomenal. I want to say thank you to both hospitals. Their efforts still mean the world to us.”
As for Dr. Adamson, he is joyful knowing that Chris remains healthy and well. “Chris’ tender story is about wonderful cooperation, triumph and the significance of organ donation,” he says.
“His story also shows the miracle of modern medicine,” Dr. Adamson continues. “Here he is 25 years later with his heart transplant, able to live his beautiful life.”
Learn more about heart and vascular care at Sharp.
For the news media: Sharp is a proud sponsor of the Transplant Games of America. To talk with Dr. Adamson about heart transplants for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.