Actor, “Monk” and “The Boys”
Jason Gray-Stanford, the actor best known for his role on “Monk” and who recently appeared on “The Boys,” was first diagnosed with heart failure in early 2018. “It was something completely unexpected,” Gray-Stanford says. “It really took a long time for it to sink in.”
After two years of treatments, Gray-Stanford and his doctors decided that a heart transplant was his best shot at life. Although Gray-Stanford was initially hesitant, the success of his transplant has inspired him to advocate for the procedure.
Journey to a new heart
After his initial diagnosis, Gray-Stanford’s doctors placed him on medications to help him manage the heart failure, and he received frequent checkups to make sure he was in good health. “I kind of maintained a regular life,” he says, “but in the back of my mind, it was always something that was kind of haunting me, like what’s going to happen tomorrow?”
Nearly two years after his initial diagnosis, Gray-Stanford participated in a spin class. Twenty minutes into the class, he fainted and woke up on the floor. “I went to the hospital, and that was kind of the beginning of my downhill slide,” he says. “A very rapid downhill slide.”
Around this time, Gray-Stanford’s doctors mentioned that a heart transplant might be his best option. Gray-Stanford only wanted to consider a transplant as a final resort. His doctors knew that time was a factor, but they let Gray-Stanford make his own decision. “The expertise of my cardiologists and their steadfastness in letting me come to this conclusion on my own, I really appreciate their tact in how they let me find my own way to the decision.”
Gray-Stanford also had to be healthy enough to receive the transplant, and his kidneys were failing fast. “You have to do a barrage of tests to make you eligible to be on the transplant waiting list,” Gray-Stanford explains, “and while we’re starting that process, the doctors are desperately trying to keep me going. My kidneys were close to done.”
As Gray-Stanford was weighing up his options, one of his cardiologists came into his hospital room to tell him they had found a heart that was a very close match for him. His doctors told him that although there were other people on the waiting list, he was the best match for the heart, and if he didn’t take it, it would go to a lesser match or be thrown out. “You kind of have a moment of truth where everything really sinks in,” he says.
A second chance at life
Gray-Stanford received his heart transplant the very next day. The next morning, he noticed a difference immediately. “I woke up and I took a big, deep breath, something I hadn’t done for a long time,” he says. “I looked up at the heart monitor that shows your blood pressure and your pulse. I saw my heart beating in regular rhythm for the first time in 2.5 years.”
Every day, Gray-Stanford thanks his donor for the gift of life. “In heart transplants, you never have the opportunity to meet your donor,” he says. “I made a pact to myself that how I live my life and how I conduct myself will be my way to honor my donor and their family.”
Since his surgery, Gray-Stanford has decided to share his story to inspire people who are faced with needing heart transplant surgery. He also wants to encourage more people to consider becoming donors. “That transplant list is a hell of a lot longer than hearts out there to give,” he says. “In America, there are over 100,000 people on the waiting list, yet last year there were less than 4,000 heart transplants performed. That’s a huge discrepancy. Anything I can do to shorten that gap makes it all worthwhile.”