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Simon Keith

May 3, 2016 by Speakers' Spotlight

Former Footballer and Transplant Survivor Simon Keith’s Emotional Return to Papworth Hospital

Simon Keith is not just a former professional soccer player—he’s one of the longest-living organ transplant recipients in the world, having received a heart transplant when he was just 21 years old.  Remarkably, Simon went on to play competitive soccer and was drafted #1 overall into the USA’s Major Indoor Soccer League just three years after his surgery. Captivating audiences with his incredible story, Simon challenges people to find their “moments of truth” and dares them to live. Yesterday, Simon returned to the hospital that gave him a life line 30 years ago:

One of the world’s longest surviving heart transplant patients returned to Papworth Hospital last week to meet the team who gave him a life line 30 years ago.

Retired professional footballer Simon Keith, visited the renowned heart and lung hospital on Thursday with his wife Kelly, to meet hospital staff who treated him and discussed the pioneering transplant work currently being carried out.

The 50-year-old is the only person in the world to have played professional football following a heart transplant.

He was just 21 when in July 1986, he received the heart of a 17-year-old boy from Wales, who died while playing football himself.

A world-class soccer player prior to the operation and who briefly played for briefly Millwall, Simon was determined to return to “his normal” and made his return to competitive soccer playing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

The father-of-three, who needed the transplant 30 years ago to treat Cardiomyopathy, said: “They did a good job, it’s an amazing place. The work they are doing now with the DCD transplants is amazing. Tucked away in the corner in the middle of nowhere, it’s an amazing place.”

His visit was ahead of the Match for Life football game which took place on Saturday in Newport to raise awareness of organ donation. Simon captained the transplant team at Rodney Parade while the celebrity team was led by Newport County F.C.’s coach and ex-professional player Mike Flynn.

Speaking of his visit to Papworth, he said: “It was good, it was a bit emotional, it’s been a long time. It was good to see the pond still there, it brought back some memories.”

Professor John Wallwork CBE, Chairman of Papworth Hospital, who was involved with Simon’s treatment 30 years ago, said: “We were delighted to welcome Simon back to Papworth Hospital today, it was wonderful to hear of the many fantastic achievements he has accomplished over the last 30 years.

“We were also pleased to be able to share with him the exciting new developments in DCD heart transplantation that Papworth is currently world leading.”

Claire Tripp Interim Chief Executive at Papworth added: “30 years on, staff at Papworth are continuing the development new techniques for treating life-threatening cardiothoracic (heart and lung) diseases. Simon’s visit reminded our staff that their hard work and dedication can make a huge difference to all patients coming through our doors.

“Simon’s exceptional story highlighted the importance of joining the organ donor register. Heart transplantation, or indeed transplantation of any form, would not be possible without the incredible donations that individuals make by signing up to the Organ Donor Register.”

Cambridge News/May, 2016