From the age of 13 months, Ben Breedlove had to deal with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. As he grew up, he realized a heart transplant was a likely part of his future. Until that time, he managed his life and condition wisely, making videos, and wakeboarding so as not to overtax his heart. Even though his childhood included many hospital ICU stays, surgeries and treatments, he continued to be joyful, sensitive to others and giving. On Christmas Day 2011, 18-year-old Ben suffered a cardiac arrest – his fourth – and could not be resuscitated. Instead of receiving a heart transplant in his lifetime, Ben ended up giving tissue that would help more than 100 people.
When Ben Breedlove reached an age where he could begin to comprehend his doctors' visits, he realized his future most likely would include a heart transplant. Diagnosed at age 13 months with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Ben grew up living with and managing his heart condition.
Ben did his best to enjoy life while managing his condition. He chose to make videos, wake board and wake surf – all activities that a weak heart could tolerate. Even though his childhood included many hospital ICU stays, surgeries and treatments, he continued to be joyful, sensitive to others and giving. As the years progressed, Ben continued to live with his condition, with the question in the back of his mind, "Will this be the year I need a transplant?"
Ben was 18 on Christmas Day 2011 when he went outside to try his new video camera. While testing it with his younger brother, Ben suffered his fourth cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated. In the ER, his family asked the hospital staff if Ben could be a donor.
"It was very difficult to walk in the door on Christmas night without him," recalled his mother Deanne. While at home that night, the family was contacted by the regional tissue bank. "It was an easy decision to donate my own organs, but to donate Ben's, without his express permission, was a little scary. Ben had also talked about being a donor, but had not been registered. Deep down, I know that his giving spirit would want to do this."
While Ben's organs could not be donated, his tissue could be recovered. Instead of receiving a donor heart in his lifetime, Ben ended up giving of himself in a way that would help more than 100 people. He became their best Christmas gift.