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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

NFL Coach & Quarterback Becomes a Heart Receiver

Heart Recipient
North Carolina

“You have between three and five days to live unless we find you a new heart.”

That’s what the doctors told Sam Wyche in December of 2016. He had been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in 2001 but had managed the disease with regular exercise and a healthy diet. Now his diagnosis had caught up with him.

The doctor gave Sam his five days on a Monday. Tuesday came and went, then Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The doctors wanted to release Sam to home-based hospice care, but he asked to wait a little longer. Saturday and Sunday passed. On Monday, Sam’s doctor told him to prepare to go home. He urged Sam to call his loved ones on the way because he might not make it home.

He still didn’t give up. That afternoon, while Sam waited for the transport crew, the doctor brought the news he’d been waiting for: they’d found a match. As Sam puts it, “I received my heart on the last day that I was supposed to be alive.”

After the surgery, Sam “felt 20, 30 years younger. I mean I felt like a new person.” Still, his thoughts centered on the loss at the other end of the donation story and he realized that he had “a new mission in life: encouraging others to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors.”

Sam still travels to spread awareness about organ donation and help people unlock their lifesaving potential. “I talk to everyone that I can. I talk to fraternities. I talk to corporations. I talk to individuals. I say ‘When I was a coach, I tried to get the most out of my players, and there’s a lot left for you to give.’”

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