Kyle Garlett is a real-life, unbreakable superhero. He survived three rounds of Hodgkins Disease—lymphoma. His heart, weakened by previous chemotherapy treatments, fought more treatment when he had a fourth bout of cancer—leukemia. In year 17 of his health odyssey, he received a donor heart (after five years of waiting on the donor list).
This superhuman then completed his first triathlon after only eleven months after his transplant, at the Malibu Triathlon, on September 16, 2007.
Amazed by Kyle’s story, in the Spring of 2009, Ironman directors offered him a coveted spot to race in Kona, Hawaii, on October 10, the third anniversary of his heart transplant.
Sadly, he was unable to finish the course, as he missed the swim cut-off by a mere seven seconds. Our local superhero is able to put a comical spin on his experiences; he described that moment by saying that as he climbed out of the water, disoriented and seasick, he was amazed at the crowd’s enthusiasm with cheering him to “touch the mat!” He didn’t realize that the crowd and his helpers were trying to rush him to the timing mat to help him beat the cut-off. Alas, it was not meant to be last October.
Thank you Diana Bertsch, Ironman Kona race director, for immediately offering Kyle a slot in 2010.
2010—A year for training and more balance
Since his October 10, 2009 attempt, Kyle Garlett has been planning and preparing for Ironman 2010, which will take place one day before the fourth anniversary of his transplant.
Unlike years past, when his calendar was sprinkled with various multi-sport races of varying distances, Kyle will only participate in two this year: a half Ironman in Lawrence, Kansas, in June; and the US Transplant Games, cycling and swimming events, in Madison, Wisconsin, in July (where nearly 10,000 people attended last year, including 1100 recipient athletes, friends and family, donor families, and surviving donors).
With the guidance of his coach of two years, Paul Ruggiero, he is optimistic he will finish the 140.6 miles on Ali’i Drive this year, as he is yet another year in recovery from his transplant. Typically, heart recipients need approximately three years for their bodies to adjust to the new heart and recover from the procedure. In fact, Kyle had trouble sleeping in his first year because his loud, strong heart beating in his ears kept him awake at night.
In this fourth year, Kyle is also enjoying traveling across the country and to others as a motivational speaker sharing his life experiences and inspiration. With a couple published sports books under his belt, Kyle is now working on his memoirs.
When asked what’s next; “What do you want to do when you ‘grow up’,” he replied, “After all this, in about ten years, I want to write fiction,” and of course, continue sharing his story with live audiences as an international speaker.
Mission: Give Life
After meeting Kyle Garlett, most people—myself included—are inspired and motivated to ensure that their organs will be donated to somebody in need.
As of April 5, 2010, there are 106,759 people on the waiting list for donor organs. There is no way for those people to know how long they will have to wait for a donor. In Kyle Garlett’s case, it was five years. In other cases it could be more or less.
How can you ensure that your organs will be donated, upon your passing? Go to www.donatelife.net to find out what the procedure is in your state, and register. However, the most sure way to guarantee that your organs give life to those in need is to make sure your family knows that is your wish.
Currently, presumed consent, also known as implied consent laws, are under way to reverse the current process. This will allow hospitals assume the deceased has implied consent to transplant their organs and tissue to people on the waiting list. Those people who do not want to have their organs harvested will have to register or opt-out. Presently, there are a few European countries with such laws.
Until a presumed consent law is passed, the only way to ensure your wish to donate life is met, you must register and notify your family.