KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Arnold Smyth committed to running after moving to the United States from his native Ireland a decade ago.
“I remember thinking I couldn't possibly have this family disease that we have because if I did, I wouldn't be able to run that good,” said Smyth.
But in 2014, Smyth learned he had inherited heart disease. The 35-year-old husband and father of two had a failing heart and wouldn't survive without a new one. In June of 2015, a donor heart was found. Smyth told his wife he'd wake up from the transplant in St. Luke's Hospital, or in heaven.
“When I woke up, I remember opening up my eyes, saying to her, ‘I guess I didn't go to heaven yet,’” Smyth recalled.
Afterwards, the man who had run half-marathons was struggling to take a few dozen steps. But he was determined, said his cardiologist Dr. Andrew Kao.
“He just worked extra hard when he went to rehab, he worked twice as hard as everybody else,” said Dr. Kao.
Walking led to running again -- with some restrictions -- such as not raising his heart rate above 170. On Saturday, Smyth ran in the ‘Rock the Parkway 5k’ -- his first race since the transplant.
Heart recipient #663 at St. Luke's was joined by some members of his transplant team.
“It's unbelievable -- and it makes me so proud of the job we do here and so proud of my patients,” said Jennifer Rock.
In Ireland – Smyth’s pal John O'Sullivan and others will run, too, honoring organ donors. Smyth is honoring his as well.
“I have a responsibility as a recipient to take the best care of this heart that I've been given and of this opportunity I've been given,” he said.
It’s an opportunity to move on, in life.