By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
ENCINO, California – Baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew and the family of the former NFL player who donated his heart and kidney will discuss their ongoing efforts to promote heart health, brain health and organ donation during a Tuesday news conference.
Carew’s heart began giving out in late 2015. He went on the transplant waiting list in November 2016, and learned a match was found a few weeks later. He received a heart – and kidney, to help ensure his body would be healthy enough to support the heart – on Dec. 16.
The donor was Konrad Reuland, a 29-year-old tight end who died Dec. 12 from a ruptured brain aneurysm.
This is believed to be the first heart transplant between pro athletes. Officials with One Legacy, the local chapter of the Donate Life organ procurement network, also said it was the first anonymously matched heart transplant between families that knew each other.
Reuland signed up to become an organ donor while renewing his driver’s license just eight months earlier. In the early 2000s, he attended the same middle school as two of Carew’s children; in fact, future donor and recipient met at least once.
Mutual friends thought the timing made it possible that Reuland’s organs went to Carew, and alerted the families. Mary Reuland (Konrad’s mom) and Rhonda Carew (Rod’s wife) worked together to verify it.
The families held a tearful reunion at the Reuland home March 2. They also were together April 4 at Konrad’s grave on what would’ve been his 30th birthday.
Shortly after Carew’s heart problems began, he worked with the American Heart Association to launch “Heart of 29,” an awareness campaign to encourage others to improve their heart health. The fact Reuland died at age 29 makes the campaign name even more poignant.
The news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. PT in Encino. Watch the live stream.