After His Heart Transplant, Simon Keith Made a Daring Decision
Advocacy While some doctors cautioned him against stressing his new heart, Simon Keith instead returned to competitive soccer just one year after his transplant.
At 21, Simon Keith was already a world-class soccer player when he was given crushing news: he had an aggressive virus called myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. Doctors told him that if he didn't have a heart transplant, he would be dead in six months.
"The list of those waiting for an organ is long, and the wait is torturous," Keith says.
"'The good news is that this riddle of not enough donors and too many waiting recipients can be solved in our lifetime.'"
Twist of fate
In July of 1986, Keith got lucky. He received a heart from a 17-year-old boy in the United Kingdom. "Every birthday, actually every day is a reminder that I am lucky to be alive thanks to the courage one family had in donating their son’s heart following his tragic death," he says.
“One of my many moments of truth during that journey was when my transplant surgeon, Dr. Mohsin Hakim, looked me in the eye and told me that, for me, the goal behind heart transplantation is to live the life you lived prior to being sick. I literally took his words to heart,” he recalls.
Making the most of it
It was a gamble that paid off. Today Keith is one of the longest surviving heart transplant recipients in the world.
The entrepreneur and author also started the Simon Keith Foundation in 2011 with the goal of increasing organ donor awareness and assisting transplant recipients.
"We now have a national registry rolled out by Donate Life America where Americans from any state can go to one location and register," he explains. "We can literally tweet #organdonor, and this can be a declaration of our support. The good news is that this riddle of not enough donors and too many waiting recipients can be solved in our lifetime."