Young men in their late teens and early twenties should be thinking about college or a career, spending time with friends, doing things they enjoy and living life. But in June, 2019, Ty Hart, 21, and David Divers, 18, found themselves where no young man should ever be – hospital inpatients anxiously awaiting life-saving heart transplants.
Watch their journey
Ty was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a weakness of the heart muscle, at age 12. His condition is genetic – Ty’s father, grandfather and uncle all have it; his father received a heart transplant in 2004. Ty had taken medication since his adolescence, but went years without experiencing any symptoms. But on December 31, 2018, the day after his 21st birthday, Ty started experiencing fatigue and shortness of breath. The symptoms continued to worsen to the point where it became hard for him to get up in the morning for work. Upon seeing a cardiologist, Ty was found to have an increasing amount of fluid backing up from his heart to his lungs and body, and in mid-May, he was placed on the heart transplant list. On June 8, 2019, Ty was admitted to Tufts Medical Center with advanced heart failure.
When David Divers, 18, was diagnosed with an overactive thyroid in 2018, he was also found to have a cardiomyopathy and symptoms of heart failure. David was treated for his thyroid condition, with the hope that his heart might recover, but instead of getting better, it continued to get worse. David was placed on the heart transplant list in early 2019 and was admitted to Tufts MC on May 20, 2019 with severe heart failure symptoms.
“We had two young patients in the hospital, both from Brockton, both in end stage heart failure, both with hopes and dreams, both needing a new heart to realize them,” said Medical Director of the Advanced Heart Failure Program Amanda Vest, MBBS. “It made perfect sense to introduce them to each other.”
Despite being on the same unit, the young men were too sick to visit each other’s rooms, but they connected and communicated with each other on social media and formed a special bond over their shared experiences of devastation at being so sick at such a young age. It gave them both hope and motivation to know that there was someone else with a similar story going through the same thing at the same time.
Back to back transplants
Then, on Monday, June 24, two hearts came available simultaneously – and incredibly, they were matches for both Ty and David. David’s transplant began the morning of Tuesday, June 25; Ty’s transplant immediately followed that night and was completed by the morning of Wednesday, June 26. Surgical Director of the Advanced Heart Failure Program Gregory Couper, MD, was on the surgical team for both heart transplants, which were completed within 12 hours of each other.
“The surgeries went smoothly and their recoveries are going quite well,” said Dr. Couper, who amazingly performed Ty’s father’s heart transplant 15 years earlier. “We typically do about two or three heart transplants per year on patients in the 18-to-34 age range, so to do about a year’s worth of transplants in one day on patients this young was highly improbable.”
On Sunday, June 30, Ty went to visit David in his room. They celebrated with each other, took pictures together, and further bonded over their eating and drinking restrictions, and their mutual love of video games and basketball.
“When I took my first walk after the heart transplant, the difference was like suddenly seeing everything in HD,” said Ty.
“I’m free now – no more suffering,” said David. “I’m newly-improved 2.0 David Divers.”
Both men have continued to recover well from their procedures and were discharged home in early July to continue their rehab and resume their lives. David is excited to just be a regular teenage kid again – hanging out with friends, playing video games and talking on the phone. Ty said he most looked forward to simply breathing fresh air again.
“I don’t even care if it’s raining,” he said.
Both men say they after sharing this roller coaster experience together, they definitely plan to stay friends and keep in touch.
“It really helped to have someone else here in a similar situation as me,” said David. “Now for both of us it’s a new heart, new start.”