The story of Erik Compton is heart breaking and inspiring all at the same time. The 34-year-old extraordinary golfer has undergone two heart transplantations. Erik received transplants both as a 12-year-old child and, later, in 2008 because he has viral cardiomyopathy, a rare condition where the heart muscle gets inflamed and is unable to pump as hard as it should.
But, this vulnerable physical condition could hardly stop him from achieving titles and honors in his international golfing career. He turned in the best performance of his career at 2014 U.S. Open, tying with Rickie Fowler for the runner-up position behind runaway winner Martin Kaymer. Compton closed with a 2-over 72 for a 1-under 27 total, leaving him eight shots behind Kaymer but one of just three gamers to break par.
Advertisement"It's an unbelievable story. The attitude that it takes to go through something like that, I don't think any of us could possibly understand it. There are very few people who have had organ transplants and who have survived and had great lives. They understand it. But to do what he's doing out here and being a professional and work his way to this level is just remarkable," writes legendary golfer Tiger Woods, on the official website of Compton.
At the age of nine, Compton was diagnosed with a condition called Cardiomyopathy and he had to wait three years for his first transplant.
"The things that happened in 1992 were the beginning of it all and it was almost a case of becoming a man at 12 years old. When somebody tells you they are going to take your heart out and put a new one in, the long-term prognosis wasn't very good. They said 4-5 years and then they would revisit it again." he told 'The Guardian' in a recent interview.
He adds, "When I was in Jackson Memorial hospital I could hear the helicopter land [carrying the replacement heart]. I think it was hard as a kid because any kind of surgery as a 12-year-old, you are freaking out. The idea of having open heart surgery was more scary than the life-threatening deal of it."
Erik Compton says he had to suffer many complications after the transplantation.
"It changed my appearance, my face became bloated and I grew facial hair. My eyebrows were basically connected to the hairline. It was tough. It took two years for the condition to settle, during which time I was forced to change schools. Kids make fun of each other. I would have made fun of me," he tells 'The Independent'.
In 2008, when his second heart began to give way he drove himself to the hospital and in a dramatic phone call home told his parents that he loved them and he was dying.
The doctors kept him alive temporarily with an emergency pacemaker but sent him home knowing he could not survive without a heart replacement. Later, the weak heart was transplanted with the heart donated by Isaac Klosterman, a former volleyball player and victim of a hit-and-run car accident. Erik survives again thanks to naturally occurring exuberance and a stack of potions that trick his body into believing the heart of Klosterman is his own.
Erik was born in Miami, Florida where he learned the gentleman's game at the age of 12. After six years, Erik became the number one junior golfer in the United States and the 1998 ALGA Roles Junior Player of the Year. He received a scholarship to play golf for the University of Georgia, where he went on to become a two time All-American playing on the 2001 Palmer Cup and Walker Cup teams.
Compton was honored with the Ben Hogan Award and Babe Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award. In 2013 Erik was among many distinguished recipients of the Donate Life Champion award. The special award is given to role models in the sports community who have made a difference by inspiring others through their support for organ donation.
During 2010 Erik continued to impress by making the cut in five of the seven PGA TOUR events he played, including the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial Tournament. His best round of the year was a 63 at the Greenbrier Classic.
In 2013, he marked his first top-10 finish by placing T-4 at The Honda Classic in March. His best PGA Tour finish is a T2 at the 2014 U.S Open, which earned him his first invitation to the Masters Tournament and the 2015 U.S. Open.
Erik Compton has been honored with the PGA Tour Courage Award, presented to a player who, through courage and perseverance, has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as personal tragedy or debilitating injury or illness, to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the game of golf, by the Player Director's Panel and PGA TOUR Commissioner.
What is a heart transplant?
Heart transplantation is a surgical procedure performed to remove the diseased heart from a patient and replace it with a healthy one from an organ donor. In order to remove the heart from the donor, more than two doctors must declare the donor brain-dead.
Before a person can be put on a waiting list for a heart transplant, an expert doctor has to certify that this is the best treatment option available for the person's heart failure. Heart transplantation is performed to replace a weakening heart that cannot be adequately treated by other means.
Heart transplantation requires a long stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your physical and mental conditions and your doctor's practices.
Generally, heart transplantation follows this process:
You will be asked to remove any jewelry or other objects that may interfere with the procedure. You will also be asked to remove your clothing and will be given a gown to wear.
An intravenous (IV) line will be inserted in your hand or arm prior to the procedure for injection of medication and to administer IV fluids, if needed. IV line is a tube that is inserted into a vein via a needle. Additional catheters will be inserted in your wrist and neck to monitor the status of your heart and blood pressure, as well as for obtaining blood samples. Alternate sites for the additional catheters include the subclavian (under the collarbone) area and the groin.
A catheter will be inserted into your bladder to drain urine. If there is excessive hair at the surgical site, it may be clipped off. The surgery will be performed while you are asleep under general anesthesia. A tube will be inserted through your mouth into your lungs. The tube will be attached to a ventilator that will breathe for you during the surgical procedure.
The anesthesiologist will continuously monitor your heart rate, blood oxygen level and blood pressure during the surgery. The skin over the surgical site will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution. The surgeon will make an incision down the center of the chest from just below the Adam's apple to just above the navel.
The sternum (breastbone) will be divided in half with an operating instrument. The surgeon will separate the two halves of the breastbone and spread them apart to expose the heart. Tubes will be inserted into the chest so that the blood can be pumped through your body by a cardiopulmonary bypass machine or heart-lung machine.
Once the blood has been completely diverted into the bypass machine for pumping, the unhealthy heart will be removed. The donor heart will be sewn into place. Once the new heart is in place, blood vessels will be connected.
After these procedures, the blood circulating through the cardiopulmonary bypass machine will be allowed back into the heart and the tubes to the machine removed. The new heart will be shocked with small paddles to re-start the heartbeat.
Once your new heart begins to beat again, the physician will observe the heart to assess the function of the heart and to ensure there are no leaks where the blood vessels are connected.
Temporary wires for pacing may be inserted into the heart. These wires can be attached to a pacemaker and your heart can be paced, if needed, during the initial recovery period.
The sternum or breastbone will be rejoined and sewn together with small wires.
The skin over the sternum will be sewn back together. The incision will be closed with sutures. Tubes will be inserted into your chest to drain blood and other fluids from around the heart. These tubes will be linked to a suction device to drain fluids away from the heart. A sterile bandage or dressing will be applied.
Full of happiness and energy, Erik Compton continues to inspire lives and make known the fact that people with organ transplants can lead a normal life. Erik's never-say-die attitude was remarkably summed up by his mom who said, "Erik is a golfer with two transplants, not a transplant recipient who plays golf."
Happily married and currently living with his wife and daughter in Miami, Erik Compton with his third heart is unbelievably brimming over with life!