Heart of a Champion

A sports legend comes to Peoria to promote organ donation as an important way to save lives.

by Kenneth Harris, OSF HealthCare
Rod Carew

When a baseball Hall of Famer says they intend to make the most of their opportunities, you can generally believe them. After all, talent alone didn’t get them to where they are. They needed determination, ambition and self-discipline to turn their talent into a career worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Rod Carew, by that standard, is no stranger to identifying a goal and devoting great effort to achieving it. In a nearly 20-year career in Major League Baseball, Carew made the All Star team 18 times, led the American League in batting average seven times, was named Rookie of the Year in his first year, and won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 1977. He knows what it takes to achieve greatness.

So when Carew says that he will not waste the second chance at life he was given by a heart and kidney transplant in December 2016, it is probably best to believe him. More than two years later, he’s proving he meant what he said.

Second Chance at Life
After suffering a life-threatening heart attack in September 2015, Carew had a left ventricular assist device installed in his chest to keep his heart beating until a new heart could be found to replace the damaged one. Because of his critical need, he was moved near the top of the donor waiting list. 

The wait lasted more than a year until 29-year-old Konrad Reuland, a former professional football player, died suddenly from a brain aneurysm, and Carew had a likely match. A few months after the transplant, Reuland’s mother met Carew and told him he would always be part of her family, according to a story on the website of the Baltimore Ravens professional football team. 

“Forever,” Carew responded. “I will take care of this one because I've been given a second chance, and God knows how I feel and what I’m going to do for him.”

Carew now works to promote organ donation as an important way to save lives. He is using his second chance at life to help provide others with the same opportunity he has had.

Raising Awareness
That’s why Carew is coming to Peoria this month—to share his appreciation for the sport that made him a household name, while raising awareness for organ donation and all the good it does.

The baseball Hall of Famer will share his story of fear, tragedy, hope and survival. He will also be available for photo opportunities, though he won’t be signing autographs. Children are encouraged to bring their baseball bat and glove to participate in on-field activities led by members of the Bradley Braves baseball and softball teams. The event is free to attend… and it might just save someone’s life. PM

Heart of a Champion runs from 12:30 to 4pm at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria on Saturday, August 24th. Visit osfhealthcare.org/carew to learn more.