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.
"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."
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.
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
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.
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.
(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
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.
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
(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
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.
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
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
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.
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."
and currently living with his wife and daughter in Miami, Erik Compton with his
third heart is unbelievably brimming over with life!