‘All I want to do is volunteer and help out,’ advocate says
Scott Campbell never let his condition slow him down – even after his second heart transplant.
Born with self-corrected transposition of the great vessels, an extremely rare heart condition, he said his parents were told he’d need a heart transplant when he was four years old. The condition, found in only .0003 percent of infants born with cardiac issues, essentially means that the ventricles are switched: his right ventricle was pumping blood to his lungs, while the left was sending it to the rest of the body.
“Those two chambers were doing the opposite of what they were supposed to do,” said Campbell, 59, a Caledonia resident. “It’s not a new condition, but it wasn’t something that was studied. All we could do is wait until it became bad enough to get a transplant.”
By being careful with his health and physically active, that wait turned out to be about 50 years. His condition didn’t keep him from running cross country in high school and playing other sports. But in 2015, his health took a turn for the worse. He was 53 at the time and admitted to the ICU in early December. Doctors gave him and his wife, Dawn, some grim news.
“They told us in early December that they were not sure I would make it to the end of the year. It was live or die,” Campbell said. “I couldn’t walk across the room without stopping three times or four times. It was time.”
His miracle came on Dec. 15 of that year; the first few days afterward were difficult, but Campbell said he woke up on Christmas morning. He knew right away that he wanted to give back to the community and started volunteering for Gift of Life Michigan only seven weeks later. An assistant coach for the Caledonia High School tennis team, he regularly volunteered in high schools, at Secretary of State offices and at community events – until the pandemic restricted those types of outreach efforts.
“It’s one of my greatest joys, and it’s one of the ways I can give back,” said Campbell. “I feel like I owe it to anyone who wants to listen to share my story. If I can sign up even one kid in a classroom, I feel like I accomplished something. If I can sign up just one person, it’s worth all of the time I dedicate to it.”
Then things took another turn. Five years after his first transplant, he learned that the small arteries on his new heart were starting to clog up and he was placed on the transplant list a second time. Miraculously, he matched with a generous donor a second time, this time on June 24 – his 59th birthday. The recovery this time was much more difficult, Campbell said. He was in the hospital for four months, all together. Despite the lengthy recovery, he still wanted to continue to share his story, to break down misconceptions and encourage people to sign up as organ and tissue donors. He was back in the high schools eight week later. This time, he had visual aids: pictures of himself, in surgery, and the cooler used to transport his second miracle heart.
“I wanted to get back to it as soon as possible,” Campbell said. “All I want to do is volunteer and help out. In fact, I don’t think I’m doing enough.”
Gift of Life Michigan is highlighting 50 stories to celebrate its 50th anniversary. For more #50for50 stories, click here.