Darien resident receives heart transplant, brings home gold in national games
Receiving an organ transplant is a second chance that not everyone gets. One Darien resident is making the most out of his gift.
After suffering two heart attacks within two weeks, Pete Kenyon was locked in a struggle to survive. However, an investigative trial for a new heart pump gave Kenyon the time he needed to receive a heart transplant.
"I became a record holder because I was the last test patient with the device," Kenyon, now 72, said. "I had it for over three years."
Since that time, Kenyon said someone else has surpassed his record for having the heart pump because of improvements in the technology.
During the time before Kenyon got his new heart, he spent time at home telecommuting to his job as a reinsurance executive. After three years, his heart pump began to wear out and Kenyon was forced to return to the hospital. Two days later, Kenyon received a new heart.
"I was lucky because my donor was a triathlete," Kenyon said.
The man Kenyon received his heart from died of a brain aneurism while coaching an ice hockey team. Kenyon is extremely proud of the heart he was given.
"This heart ran in the 2001 Boston Marathon and finished," Kenyon said, pointing at his chest.
Kenyon recently completed his fourth trip to the US Transplant Games where he won four gold medals in the 50-meter, 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle swimming competitions. However, the competition isn't the only reason Kenyon enjoys competing in the transplant games, it's also the people he gets to meet.
"There are a lot of people I've swam against and swam with," Kenyon said, "and there is always a lot of camaraderie because of what we've gone through."
This year's games were a little different than previous years because Kenyon was part of Team Liberty instead of Team Connecticut.
"They organize us geographically and because I'm from lower Fairfield county, I'm closer to New York City," Kenyon said. However, Kenyon said he still had opportunities to see his old teammates.
Andrea Savisky, division program director for the National Kidney Foundation, said the US Transplant Games were started in 1990 as a way for people who have received transplants to compete as well as showing people that transplants are successful.
"Many years ago in 1954 the first successful transplant was a kidney transplant," Savinsky said.
When the games first started, about 200 people competed. Since then, the games have grown to include about 10,000 competitors, Savinsky said.
While in Wisconsin competing, Kenyon had a chance to catch up with a friend of his from his days in the Navy. "One of my shipmates lives in Wisconsin and he spent half the day with me before I had to compete," Kenyon said.
Even after his recent success in Wisconsin, Kenyon is still looking to compete; this time on a bigger stage.
"I'm now looking at the World Transplant Games," Kenyon said.
The World Transplant Games are scheduled to be held in Goteborg, Sweden, in June 2011.
Right now, Kenyon is competing in the highest age bracket which is for competitors who are 70 or older.
"I hope to compete when it's [age bracket] 80-plus," Kenyon said.
By competing in the US Transplant Games, Kenyon hopes that people will realize there is quality of life after receiving a transplant. He also hopes that people will consider becoming organ and tissue donors.
Kenyon is going to give all four of his gold medals to the doctors and nurses who treated him while he was in the hospital
"I give them to the people who got me to where I am today."