A Touch of Heart

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!

-Scott

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.”

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2 Responses to A Touch of Heart

  1. BreathinSteven says:

    Damn… I hate it when you do this, Scott… You have me sitting at my desk at work with tears rolling down my cheeks… And that’s not even the worst of it…

    No — the worst of it is that I’ve been a life-long Cubs fan and now I feel drawn to the dark side. After Tadahito’s gesture, and generous gift — and Ozzie’s welcome that must have made Takuya feel ten feet tall… How can I not be a Sox fan now?!?!

    Tadahito gave Takuya and his family so much more than money — he gave them hope. He gave them the understanding that there are people out in this big, beautiful world who care about other people. And as was pointed out in the story — he gave Takuya the strenght to survive the battle he was facing…

    I’ve got new heroes in my life. Don’t tell my wife — we have a mixed marriage and she’s ALWAYS been a Sox fan and she’s always berated me for being a Cubs fan. She can’t know about this change of heart…

    Love,

    Steve

  2. -Scott (Campaign Manager) says:

    Ha! Excellent, I know, it’s really an amazing story. You can’t help but realize the way this issue breaks barriers on so many levels and brings to light the true basis of humankind that resides in us all. Great insight Steve, -Scott

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