Victoria fans cheer on former soccer pro awaiting second heart transplant
Victoria's Simon Keith is waiting for two more life-saving organ transplants. (Simon Keith Foundation)
Published Thursday, March 7, 2019 2:36PM PST
Last Updated Thursday, March 7, 2019 4:45PM PST
As the first athlete in the world to play a professional sport after getting a heart transplant, Simon Keith is used to overcoming adversity.
But the Victoria native admits that spending the last four months on a transplant list, waiting for a new heart and kidney has been particularly difficult.
“Honestly, it’s excruciating, it’s soul depriving and it is just gut wrenching. It’s just very, very tough. No tougher than anybody else, but it is tough,” said Keith from his Las Vegas home.
He’s quick to look on the bright side: he’s out of the hospital.
“I had some procedures done in November, December that really took its toll on me and really got me close to the no-fun zone, but since then I’ve been home and I am on dialysis so that’s been helpful and I’m actually pretty good,” he said.
The well wishes from the place he grew up are helping keep his spirits up.
“Victoria and Vancouver Island and British Columbia, the support that I get is just overwhelming,” he said.
He tweeted how happy he was to get a care package from Victoria sports teams.
Had a great visit from @ianklitsie who brought a MASSIVE care package from the sports teams of Victoria. Thanks @wlashamrocks @harbourcats @jamesbayrugby @highlandersfc @victoriaroyals @chek_news @pacificfootballclub @hockeycanada and of course Victoria Truss! pic.twitter.com/jEjn4JhEnk— Simon Keith (@SimonKeith1) January 20, 2019
Keith grew up in Victoria, where he played soccer for the Mount Douglas Secondary School team. In 1984, he moved on to the University of Victoria Vikings.
Then a diagnosis of myocarditis, a deterioration of the heart muscle, threatened to not only destroy his soccer career, but his life.
Two years later, Keith received a heart transplant and fought to recover quickly. Soon after, he moved to Las Vegas where, against all advice, he pursued his soccer dreams and turned pro.
After countless accomplishments, from leading the way in increasing organ donation in Nevada, to being named to the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2016, Keith has now found himself needing not one but two more lifesaving transplants.
He was put on the wait list for a new heart and kidney at the end of October.
Both organs have to come from the same donor.
Keith is considered a "status four" out of 13 ranks on the list. He is essentially at the top of the list for a blood type B transplant on the West Coast, and is waiting for a donor compatible with his immune system.
Waiting four months for the life-saving organs has been tough, not just on Keith, but his entire family.
“My wife’s an absolute beast. She’s taking care of me and taking care of everybody else, but yeah, if you’re the kids or the wife, you are just watching your dad or your husband just waste away. You’re just watching him die, it’s terrible,”
Despite feeling weak, and 30 pounds under his healthy weight, Keith is still working on advocacy for organ donations.
He said what is slowing things down in Canada is a lack of cohesiveness. Each province has its own system for registering for donations.
“Everybody needs to be on the same page. We should have a national registry and I think we are getting there,” he said.
In the meantime, Keith has had to put his usual visits to his beloved Victoria on hold. If he leaves the West Coast of the United States, he has to take himself off the donor list while he is gone, and can’t take the risk of missing out on a life-saving heart and kidney.
But he doesn’t need to be in town physically to feel the support from Victorians..
“Out of that city, I hear from people literally every day checking in on me. ‘How are we doing? Is there anything I can do it?’ It just speaks to what kind of a community it is. It’s just incredible.”