State Colleges

Best of 2010: Jeremy Gant's life shifts with transplant

The Eagle's sports staff looks back at the Best of 2010. Each writer shares a memorable moment from his or her beat.

On Sept. 2, doctors at the Kansas Heart Hospital told Newman University golfer Jeremy Gant he needed a new heart or he would die.

In 2010, nothing I covered came close to what Gant went through. This is his story, in his own words:

"Before I found out I needed a heart transplant, my life was just like any other college kid. I was playing golf and having success, and I was looking forward to starting my second year of college. But in the month or two prior to school, I began to feel my heart do funny things and I would get short of breath very easily. Simple things like walking up a flight of stairs or carrying my golf bag would make me winded.

"Take into mind that I had just won a bodybuilding contest and was in the best shape of my life, so none of this made sense to me. I talked to my parents about it and we scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist in Wichita the first week of school. They made the appointment for a Monday, which just happened to be qualifying day for the golf team.

"I wasn't about to miss that, so we pushed it back a day. I figured it was no big deal and that they'd put me on some pills and I'd get back to my life."

That Tuesday, doctors at the Kansas Heart Hospital discovered a leaky heart valve and scheduled a surgery for Thursday morning to correct the problem. When Gant showed up Thursday with his parents, Lisa and Cecil, they could tell something had changed.

"I could tell something wasn't right because the doctor was being very quiet. He asked me to go back to the waiting room because he had to calculate the results, and when he came back in he gave me the most devastating news of my entire life.

"He told me my heart was functioning at 10 percent and at that rate I would only live a few more years, at best. My only option, he told me, was a heart transplant. Not many 19-year-olds have to hear those words."

Jeremy and his family were instructed to head directly to Saint Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where he underwent testing and then was put on a heart transplant list. He spent the next month going back and forth from his hometown of Chanute to Kansas City whenever his PIC line — basically a long-term IV — became infected. On the night of Oct. 10, he was in Chanute talking to his girlfriend on the phone when an unknown number popped up on his caller ID. It was Saint Luke's.

"They told me they'd accepted a heart for me and I needed to get to Kansas City ASAP. It was a mix of every type of emotion you can imagine. We were happy, scared and excited all at once. We began to hurry up and pack and then we were on the road. I was calling everyone telling them the news. Once we got to the hospital, reality started to set in. I was getting ready to undergo open-heart surgery."

The next day, Jeremy got a new heart. In the last four months, the Gants have been overwhelmed with the support from their hometown, from the Newman community and from some unexpected places. Today, Jeremy is taking classes at Neosho Community College and undergoing rehabilitation.

"After a couple of months, my life is starting to get back to normal. Despite having my chest cut wide open, I have gotten to experience a lot of amazing things. I met Tom Watson. I met the Oklahoma State golf team. I also got to talk to Erik Compton, a PGA golfer who has had two heart transplants. Recently, I played golf with U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uhlein.

"I am so lucky to be given a second chance at life and I just thank God every day. If there's anything I want people to get out of my story, it's to cherish every moment of your life and live it to the fullest, because you never know which day is going to be your last."

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