Some of you may have come across this excellent story last week by the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lori Rackl. It’s quite amazing and serves as a great reminder of the power we all have to help one another as registered organ/tissue donors. We wish Takuya the best of luck with his new heart!
Heart of the lineup
On the field, the White Sox’ Tadahito Iguchi is a second baseman. Off the field, he is second to none in the mind of Takuya Matsumoto, a 13-year-old from Japan who came to Chicago for a heart transplant
Heart patient Takuya Matsumoto, 13, (right) with White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)
June 19, 2007
BY LORI RACKL Staff Reporter
Munching on his hot dog behind home plate, Takuya Matsumoto, 13, smiled as White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi ran onto the field.
Takuya and Iguchi had met once before. Not at the ballpark. In a hospital room.
The young boy from Japan came to Chicago in March in hopes of getting a new heart. As he waited on the transplant list at University of Chicago Medical Center, Iguchi dropped by for a visit.
“I felt a connection,” Iguchi said through a translator. “I wanted to do my best to help him.”
The Tokyo-born ballplayer wrote a check for $10,000 to offset Takuya’s sky-high medical bills. The boy’s family and friends in Japan had to raise roughly $1 million to send him to the U.S. for a life-saving heart transplant. He couldn’t get one at home because a controversial Japanese law won’t allow children younger than 15 to be organ donors.
A small percentage of foreigners are eligible for organ transplants in the U.S. On April 19, it was Takuya’s turn.
University of Chicago surgeons implanted a new heart to replace the one that no longer pumped like it should because of Takuya’s cardiomyopathy, a serious disease that can enlarge and weaken the heart muscle. Takuya’s heart condition likely stemmed from a viral infection.
No one knew Takuya was sick until last year, when he complained of chest pain and shortness of breath during gym class. Shortly after, his heart stopped beating. An implanted pump kept the boy alive while he waited for a new organ.
Takuya’s mother likes to think Iguchi helped her son hang on, too.
“His visit was so powerful,” Mikiko Matsumoto said through a U. of C. social worker who speaks Japanese. “Not only did he give Takuya financial support; he gave him the strength to live.”
And on a beautiful spring evening earlier this month, Iguchi and the Sox gave Takuya one heck of a 13th birthday.
Takuya, along with his mom, sister, cardiologist and social worker, arrived at U.S. Cellular Field a couple of hours before the Sox faced off against the New York Yankees.
Iguchi greeted Takuya on the field as the players prepped for batting practice.
“He looks a lot healthier,” Iguchi said. “I hope he gets back to playing baseball.”
Takuya stepped into the dugout, where manager Ozzie Guillen gave him an effusive welcome, explaining that he only speaks a little Japanese. “Sake — that’s it,” Guillen said, which was enough to spark a shy smile from Takuya.
The smile grew bigger when Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui of the Yankees stopped by to say hi.
Then it was off to the Sox clubhouse, where players were hanging out, playing cards and watching “Friends” reruns. Bobby Jenks put down his video game control panel to give Takuya an enthusiastic high five.
Iguchi’s translator led the awestruck 13-year-old around the locker room, introducing him to players who took turns signing the boy’s Sox shirt. Takuya quietly said “thank you” and bowed his head to each of them.
He didn’t say a lot back in the stands as he watched his first live, professional baseball game.
When asked what he thought of the ballpark, he replied: “Too big.”
How was his hot dog? “Good.”
And what did he think of the day’s events? “Unbelievable.”
Takuya isn’t much of a talker under any circumstances.
“Even when he was really sick, he never complained,” said his U. of C. cardiologist, Dr. Savitri Fedson. “He’s just a really sweet kid.”
If Takuya’s body doesn’t reject the organ and he continues to improve, he’ll head home to Japan in about a month. He’ll leave here not only with a new heart, but a new appreciation for the heart others have shown him.
“After we arrived in Chicago, we’ve been so well-treated,” his mother said. “Everybody here supported him so much. We want to thank all of you.”