Jimmy Leiter Deerfield, IL

I was getting ready to play football during my senior year of high school.  I had to see my family doctor to get my physical done, and because of a heart murmur and some other heart issues from when I was younger, the doctor insisted I get an echo. He told me that he wouldn't sign-off on my physical until I got an echo done. After a few tests they determined I have a serious heart defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy also known as HCM. So I was put on major physical restrictions which included no football. I decided to get another opinion done, at the children's hospital in Chicago just before my 18th birthday.  I had a bunch of tests done including an EKG, echo, stress test, and my least favorite, a heart MRI. And unfortunately the first doctor was right, I have HCM. I was so heart broken and very upset. My mother was in shock.   She had told the doctor that I had no symptoms and the doctor looked my mother right in her eyes and said the only symptom is dropping dead. I had to quit football which was the hardest thing to do, but my coach didn't let me go that easy.  He decided to make me team manager. I accepted the offer and even though I couldn't play, I could help. It wasn't easy sitting on the sidelines watching the others play, but I did know that God had a reason for it all.


Over the next couple of months I started getting really depressed because of not being able to do much of anything, I felt as I was on house arrest, but worse one wrong move could kill me. After high school I decided to follow my other dream of being a computer tech, since I couldn't do college ball or the military. So I attended Robert Morris University and finished my Associate’s within degree within two years.  I had a great job, but still had the bad heart. After some time and more life transitions, I had started noticed some major physical changes. I was getting shortness of breath, tiredness, and dizziness. My doctor ordered more tests, and this time the stress test had found that when my heart is under a lot of stress I have ton of blockage.  So they decided to sign me up to receive a defibrillator.  But after talking with the specialist for my defibrillator and telling her about some other symptoms I was having, she had mentioned it to my doctor and again more test were ordered.  It was determined that I needed to have open heart surgery to remove some of the muscle off the heart. I was devastated by the news and broke down.  I was completely scared out of my mind. This surgery wasn't rare, but it still one that is pretty risky. After a month of waiting for surgery day, I had said all my good-byes and see you on the other sides. The first surgery lasted for eight hours, followed by three hours for the defibrillator placement.  When I woke-up, I was in ICU and the doctor said everything went as according to plan. After spending just under a week in the hospital and being able to see and touch the Stanley Cup thanks to Coach Q and the Blackhawks, I was out and heading home.


The weeks that followed the surgery were not always easy. There were days were I felt as I could take on the world and then days were I felt as I was hit by a train. After a lot of prayer and advice I decided to go back to school, my doctor was very shocked that I "recovered" within three months of having the surgery, but the battle only was beginning. I had a rough start at school, but once I signed up for tutoring and got a new job at a local athletic club, I was able to drop 80 percent of my stress AND got myself in better health. By working at this health club for about four months I already had lost over 20 pounds and my blood pressure is better than ever.  My self-esteem is also better than it has been in years. People look at me and wouldn't even guess I had open-heart surgery because of how active I am active as well as the joy I have in my heart. And it is all because of one little angel, my doctor, telling me to get checked up and that checkup it ended up saving my life.