We’d like to introduce you to Joe Eitl.
Joe is from Montgomery County. He’s 37 years old and was born with a congenital heart defect. He’s has had several open heart surgeries and pacemakers throughout his life.
Since he was young, Joe’s been an active participant in Special Olympics. But 18 months ago, Joe’s health declined severely. Joe needed a heart transplant. Joe’s liver was also significantly compromised and required a transplant as well. To further complicate matters, Joe only has one functioning kidney.
Joe’s family faced the extreme challenge of finding a hospital system willing to list a high-risk patient with Down syndrome on their transplant list. As time was running out, Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville expressed interest and agreed to evaluate Joe.
Joe spent four weeks at Vanderbilt in the spring being evaluated. Due to the risk involved, they didn’t feel he was strong enough to survive the transplant and created a plan that Joe needed to follow to improve his candidacy. The plan included a physical therapy program and new medicine, diet and exercises to help make him a good candidate. Joe and his family spent the next several months working out and lifting weights (think Rocky IV in the wilderness) and getting in shape.
In early November, Joe was approved for the procedure and officially listed for a heart & liver transplant on Nov. 9.
On Nov. 25, Joe had successful transplant surgery!!
And while his road to recovery is still long and winding, Joe and his family have decided that doing the Fitness Heptathlon will be part of his rehab to help Joe get back to doing what he loves: competing with Special Olympics!
Since it’s a virtual program, Joe will be able to compete in Nashville along with his best friend, who lives in Pennsylvania.
During recovery, Joe has gotten so many messages and well-wishes from the community as well as members of the Philadelphia Eagles. Joe even received a personalized video from his favorite wrestler: John Cena!
According to his doctors, Joe is the FIRST Trisomy 21 patient in the WORLD to receive a simultaneous heart and liver transplant!
To read so much more about Joe’s journey, please visit his Facebook Group: https://bit.ly/3amP1wv
Additionally, here’s a link to Joe’s GoFundMe page: http://bit.ly/3p2DypU
We feel blessed to be able to share Joe’s story with you and know our entire Special Olympics family will be keeping him and his family in our thoughts this holiday season!