Bob Ward is constantly on the go, striving to meet his goals. Playing sports has always driven him, so the discovery of a heart problem during his freshman year of high school came as quite a shock. He was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that caused his heart to beat irregularly, thickening his left ventricle.
“We found out that playing sports actually hurt me,” Bob remembered. “They treated my problem with medication, but my condition worsened in my junior year ,and I had to have a defibrillator. There were no sports for me that year.”
Bob graduated from high school and attended Belmont Abby College in North Carolina while still under the care of MUSC physicians. By the spring of his freshman year, they discovered that his heart was taking on fluid. The problem worsened, requiring him to be hospitalized every two weeks and miss most of his sophomore year at college. In November of 2005, he was listed for a heart transplant, and miraculously, a heart became available less than a month later.
“I’m a universal donor as far as my blood type and I had to receive a heart from a universal donor,” he explained. “When we got the call, I was terrified, even though I’d been through all of the steps to get ready. My mom and dad urged me not to pass up the transplant, so I went in, but I was so scared that my heart rate skyrocketed at the thought that this was real.”
During the transplant, MUSC physicians found that fluid had caused Bob’s old heart to swell to the size of a football. It no longer beat, but merely shook. By that afternoon, his new heart was functioning properly, although he had to remain in the hospital until all the fluid was drained from his pericardium.
“I spent Christmas in the hospital, but it was one of the best my family has ever had,” Bob said. “They were all there with me, playing cards and games. Even though it was humble, we were very thankful.”
Within four months after his transplant, Bob ran a 6.2-mile race in under an hour after training with his father and the MUSC rehabilitation team. He returned to school the following fall to pursue a dual degree in sports management and business administration. Three years after his transplant, he runs two miles every day, lifts weights and plays basketball and baseball. He feels great and has no health problems now.
As his way of giving back to MUSC for the wonderful care he says he received, Bob helped organize Transplant Night at a Charleston River Dogs baseball game during the summer of 2008. About 45 transplant patients attended the game, and MUSC physicians threw out the first pitches. Bob worked at a booth to help raise awareness about transplants. His next goal is to be a transplant counselor at MUSC for pre- and post-transplant patients.