Rod Carew Drives LVAD Awareness
MLB Hall of Famer Rod Carew is no stranger to driving the ball out of baseball parks. His greatest scores of all time may in fact be coming now in his retirement. Rod Carew drives LVAD awareness into the public mainstream. As he does, he helps increase the awareness of these life saving medical devices and the massive problem of Heart Disease, he is helping to save lives.
LVADs Awareness is weak
Let me help put this into perspective. I was told I would have to get an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) in 2011. There was little to no information out there, and I had scarce help in finding out any information about this device. I needed to have open heart surgery to have the LVAD implanted and attached to the bottom of my heart.
The highest profile person who had an LVAD at the time, was former Vice President, Dick Cheney. He had an LVAD and later a successful heart transplant. The only pop culture reference to an LVAD was from the TV show, Grey’s Anatomy, in an episode, a character named Izzy cut the LVAD control wire on the device her love interest had in order (she wrongfully hoped) to expedite his receiving a heart transplant. This caused the love interest character to die. Much as would happen if you did the same in real life.
LVAD Awareness Needs Help
These were not reassuring depictions of what life is actually like with living with the device each and every day. I wish that I and every other LVAD patient had a better example or role model. I had a support group at the hospital where I had my LVAD implanted. Bless them all, but they were all at least 20 to 30 years my senior, and at different stages of their lives than I was. These men and women were mostly retired, had older kids, or were empty-nesters. My wife and I were running a business, working full time at it, and raising our three kids. I needed to talk to and ask questions of someone more my age and in my same situation. Luckily I was able to reach out and find some people exactly like that on social media channels.
I found support, but it took time and effort. Mostly because the LVAD was not in the public mainstream really. Something has happened though, and maybe that can be changed. All because of Rod Carew, the Minnesota Twins, Major League Baseball, and the American Heart Association.
A Bit of Rod Carew’s Heart Journey
In November of 2015, I got a call from a good friend and business acquaintance, Anita, who happens to be the daughter of another great Minnesota Twin, Tony Oliva. Anita shared Rod’s story about the heart attack he suffered, and that he now had an LVAD implanted. She asked me for some tips and advice she could share. We spoke for a bit and I offered that she could pass along my phone number, if Rod would ever want to ask questions. She said she would do that.
Fast forward to April of 2016, and the Minnesota Twins Home Opener. About 2 hours before the first pitch was to happen, Anita called again, and asked if I was free that afternoon, I said I was, and she said that if I could make it, Rod would love to have me as a guest and wanted to chat about my experience with the LVAD.
That day I got to meet Rod and his lovely wife Rhonda. During that meeting, I got to show and let Rod hold the actual LVAD pump that was inside my body and had saved my life. We spoke about how he could get some different apparel to wear with his batteries, as the vest he was wearing “messed with his swing” when he was trying to golf.
Rod Carew wanted to get involved to help others Facing an LVAD
Rod was able to share with me the steps he had undertaken to help drive awareness of heart disease and the LVAD. He hopes one day, “no one else has to go through this.” He built a partnership with the American Heart Association, the Minnesota Twins and the MLB to launch his “Heart of 29” Campaign. Number 29 was the Jersey number Rod wore throughout his career in baseball. His new mission is to drive awareness and help raise funds for research and prevention of heart disease.
In partnership with the AHA & The Minnesota Twins Rod Carew Created the Heart of 29 Foundation
By taking center stage in front of 40,000-plus fans, Carew not only celebrated his progress, he also continued raising the profile of Heart of 29, his campaign with the American Heart Association to help boost awareness and prevention of heart disease. The Twins will continue their efforts Wednesday when they debut red jerseys with a Heart of 29 sleeve patch, something they will wear every Friday home game this season.
Carew and Heart of 29 took part in the Twin Cities Heart Walk at Target Field 1n May. Heart of 29 also will be spotlighted at upcoming games at Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium of Anaheim, with events being planned for All-Star Week and Hall of Fame weekend. Rod would really like to see more teams join the campaign.
Driving Awareness can help millions of people
“If we can just get all the clubs involved, just think about all the lives we can save,” he said. I love that people like Rod Carew are willing to help in this cause to spread awareness. It will take a lot of awareness to make people aware and to care for their own heart health. Like Rod, I don’t wish my journey from heart disease through transplant on anyone. For myself, I try to do what I can to pay it forward. It is one of the ways I honor my donor. It’s something that brings me great joy! Tell me your story in the comments below!