Weightlifter receives gift of most important muscle

Health
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A weightlifter from Kansas City was feeling very weak. A year ago, Chris Williams' weightlifting came to a sudden, shocking stop when an exam of his heart revealed why he'd been so out of breath for months.

"I was working out twice a day with my heart only pumping 10 percent," Chris says.

The most important muscle in the weightlifter's body was barely pumping. Dr. Andrew Kao of Saint Luke's Hospital says it was likely an inherited condition that destroyed the heart muscle. Chris' dad died of heart disease in his 50's. Chris was near death at age 35.

"We actually made him wear a defibrillator on his chest so his heart wouldn't stop," says Dr. Kao.

Blood pooled in the weak heart causing a stroke. Chris would have died or suffered severe disability if he hadn't been at the hospital when it happened. It was clear he needed a new heart.

"I just kept a prayer with my family and my friends," Chris says.

Less than a month after going on the transplant list, Chris received a new heart on, appropriately, Independence Day. Twenty-four hours later, he was out of bed and walking. He was back lifting weights just six weeks after the transplant -- ten pound weights at first. And nine months later, Chris is bench pressing 225 pounds which is eighty percent of what he did before. He's one hundred percent grateful to the donor and donor family who gave him life.

"I would love to meet them. Let them know I will treasure the heart. The gift they gave me. The gift to be with my family again," says Chris.

Chris will be able to raise his third child, Elijah, who was born three months after the transplant. He has returned to work full-time.

April is National Donate Life Month. The Midwest Transplant Network encourages you to sign up through your state donor registry. Celebrations in our area include:

April is National Donate Life Month. The Midwest Transplant Network encourages you to sign up through your state donor registry. Celebrations in our area include:

April 3
Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill
Donate Life Garden Ceremony, 12:30 - 1 pm, outside main hospital entrance

April 5
Shawnee Mission Medical Center
Wall of Heroes Celebration, Chapel,
8 - 9:30 am

April 10
The Children's Mercy Hospital
Donor registry drive and donation awareness booth, 1 - 2 pm, outside cafeteria, ground floor

Centerpoint Medical Center
Donate Life Rose Ceremony, 4 - 7 pm

April 17
Truman Medical Center Hospital Hill
Donor registry drive and awareness booth, 10 am - Noon, main lobby entrance; Noon - 2 pm, outside the cafeteria, ground level

Heartland Regional Medical Center
Celebration of Life Ceremony, 3 pm

April 19
National Blue and Green Day

April 23
Lee's Summit Medical Center
Donor registry table and quilt display, 11:30 am - 1:30 pm, outside cafeteria

April 24
Olathe Medical Center
Donor registry drive and Donor Story Wall, 11 am - 2 pm, cafeteria

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