When we think and live with the miracle of heart transplantation, it is understandable that we have a very different perspective of life than do most non-transplant recipients. My life has changed. My perception of life has changed and when I think of the numerous stress points of my former life, I can only shake my head and ask, “What was I thinking?”
I marvel the heart transplant recipient who gets back into the mainstream and pursues excellence in a field for which he or she has enduring passion. Such is the case of a two-time heart transplant recipient, Erik Compton, a member of the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour, a highly competitive calling. As a onetime golfer, I like this story for a number of reasons but what I like most about Compton is his determination as a golfer and, as a heart transplant recipient, his dedication to helping others.
Shortly after competing against the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy and the rest of the high profile tour players at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Erik appeared on CBS Good Morning with a message his followers have heard many times before. Of course, he was questioned about his own miraculous story but he was determined to spend equal time talking about the miracle of heart transplantation and the importance of organ donation.
I first heard of Erik through two friends who used to play golf with him in Florida. My friends wanted to assure me that all things were possible.
I still believe that. But, I suspect I share a rehabilitation experience that is like other patients I have met. Things have changed for me. I have thought about all the factors that led to this situation and have tried hard to change my navigation system. There are many other things that interest me more than my old lifestyle. More than ever, I want a sound mind, body and spirit so that I can better pursue a higher purpose.
For Mr. Compton, golf has provided that. He thrives in his pursuit and he is very, very good at it. Erik took up golf at the age of 12 when he received his first transplant and was told to refrain from playing contact sports. Erick began to play and concentrate on golf, a healthy game. At age 18, Erick was ranked the number 1 junior golfer in the United States and was named the AJGA Rolex Junior Player of the Year. Wow! He accepted a scholarship to the University of Georgia and competed against the world’s top amateurs as a member of the prestigious 2001 Palmer Cup and Walker Cup national amateur teams. Erik was a two-time All-American.
In 2007, Erik’s second heart began to fail. His ejection fraction fell below 15. On the way to the hospital, he was calling his friends and loved ones to say goodbye. He was stabilized and received a new heart six months later.
Since that second transplant, Erick’s golf career has gotten better and better. 2013 has been his most productive year but he had already amassed national recognition winning the Ben Hogan Award, presented at the 2009 Masters and being named winner of the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award from the US Sports Academy. In 2013, Erik was named one of several recipients of the Donate Life Champion Award.
This is what I admire most about Erik. As we wait, receive and recover, I think many of us share some the same thoughts. As I cross each barrier, I keep wondering, “Now what?”
This keeps arising because when I received the miracle heart transplant, I was awed and kept asking “What purpose does God want me to serve?” I mean there must be a higher purpose, right?
Erik has found his purpose. He is playing terrific golf, competing against the greatest golfers in a generation and staying true to his higher purpose by promoting heart transplantation and organ donation.
I admire this man. He is one of us. I encourage you to hear his story. We should all celebrate his success, purpose and commitment.
If you would like to know more about Erik, the Transplant Foundation and the Erik Compton Golf Classic for the benefit of the Foundation, please visit http://www.erikcompton.com/. This is one tournament and one foundation we should all support.