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!
We started the #StrideChallenge on Oct. 19. Since then, athletes and Unified partners across Pennsylvania have ran, walked and rolled their way to more than 11,000 total miles!!
We wanted to share one story that was particularly touching from Lisa Barbour in Philadelphia. Here’s what she wrote:
“My name is Lisa Barbour I am a Special Olympics PA Philadelphia athlete. I started doing At Home training so that I could continue working on my sports training. I also, wanted to lose weight and build up my endurance. I wanted to help myself be healthier and last longer in the game. I am also, doing the Fitness Stride Challenge with my sister, Michelle.
I originally signed myself up for the Stride Challenge for 25 miles. Recently, Michelle and I did Healthy Lifestyles Athlete training, so I could become a Health and Fitness Coordinator. That was when Michelle heard about the Stride Challenge. I told her that I was already signed up. Michelle said that we could still do it as a unified team. She said we could do 200 miles. My reply to her was “200 Miles! I don’t think I can do that much plus my 25.” My sister, Michelle said I think you can. Remember you walk your dog, Khalessi at least 2 to 3 miles a day. My sister walks her dog, Roper everyday as well as part of our challenge. As I write this today, November 16th we have only 60 miles left to meeting our goal of 200. I am so excited and proud of myself for taking on this challenge.
As a result of doing this Fitness Stride Challenge and At-Home Sports Training, I have beat my personal best for the 10 meter soccer dribble going from 12 seconds to now being able to do it within 9 seconds. I also lost weight, a total of 23 pounds and I am in better shape and I feel great! I feel healthier and I can’t wait for the Heptathlon Challenge to start so that I can do more work-outs and trainings. Commit to Fit is awesome!”
Special Olympics Pennsylvania is proud to introduce… 𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗺𝗶𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗙𝗶𝘁: 𝗕𝗲 𝗔𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗮 𝗡𝗲𝘄 𝗘𝗿𝗮!!
Through sports, health, and fitness, we can become a stronger, healthier and more unified community via brand new training and competition opportunities!! We’re overjoyed to roll out a campaign which includes: the Special Olympics North America Stride Challenge, our Fitness Heptathlon, At-Home Training and In-Person Training.
We’re so excited about this opportunity to come together — united in the same common purpose of increasing activity and improving the overall health and wellness of our athletes and volunteers! Stay tuned for many more details to come!!
Dear Special Olympics Pennsylvania Athletes and Volunteers:
We are excited to announce that Commit to Fit is back and better than ever before! Once just a daily video workout series, Commit to Fit returns as an overarching campaign for the four fitness and training opportunities that Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) athletes can participate in this season and beyond.
Through sports, health, and fitness, we can become a stronger, healthier and more unified community.
Below, please find a flyer that better explains what the Commit to Fit: Be Active in a New Era campaign includes: A SONA Stride Challenge, Fitness Heptathlon, At-Home Training and In-Person Training. The first, new opportunity will be the SONA Stride Challenge created by Special Olympics North America (SONA). More details about Commit to Fit as well as the SONA Stride Challenge will be shared more broadly next week. On Wednesday, October 7th there will be a call to action for those interested to register for the Stride Challenge.
We are excited about Commit to Fit’s new and expanded program offerings; but, its success will require everyone – staff, athlete leaders, Local Program management teams, families, coaches, and our school partners — to come together, united in the same common purpose of increasing activity and improving the overall health and wellness of our athletes.
Stay tuned for more information as we endeavor to keep our athletes Active in a New Era!