Real Life Stories

Ron Gooden

Gibsonia, PA

Football coach

Heart recipient

Not many people get a second chance in life. I’m one of the lucky few.

Thanks to someone I never met, I’m alive today. Soon, I’ll be able to walk my daughter down the aisle. Recently, I was there to see my son graduate college. All because I received a heart transplant from a registered organ donor. A fellow Pennsylvanian who “had my back.”

There Are No Words
Really, words can’t come close to expressing how I feel. The closest I can come? I am so very honored to have this living gift. It’s something I will always treasure and honor. I will be a great steward to this heart, take care of it and always respect it.

There’s so much more to life than X’s and O’s.

Before the transplant, my skin was gray, because my heart couldn’t pump enough oxygen through my body. I was always out of breath. But after I received the heart, I was looking in the mirror and I was struck by how white my eyes were — it had been so long since they looked like that. And my heartbeat — it was so strange and wonderful to feel it again!

It’s the Little Things
I’ve been thinking about taking up photography. While I never really thought about that before, I notice little things I never used to, like this one tree where my football team practices. The sunlight just hits it a certain way, and the other day I was staring at it, really seeing it for the first time. And the kids said, “Coach, are you all right?” I notice those things now. I’ve learned not to take anything for granted.

I tell my players, “Don’t ever forget, there’s so much more to life than X’s & O’s.” So, when you have an opportunity to say “thank you” to your friends, or say “I love you” to your parents, say it. Because life’s so short. It really is.


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