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Donate Life Month begins in life-saving fashion

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This April, as the nation celebrates Donate Life Month, one Indianapolis teen is cherishing a second chance at life thanks to a life-saving heart transplant while another gentleman is getting his health screened in the same place he gets his hair cut: at the barbershop.

In 2022, Cayce, a once-healthy teenager, was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. This condition weakens the heart’s ability to pump blood. His world was turned upside down as he faced a future filled with uncertainty.

“February 4 came as a complete shock to our family and stopped Cayce in his tracks,” said Cayce’s mother Melissa Cobb. “Life changed dramatically that day.”

After weeks of adjustments to his medication, Cayce’s condition continued to deteriorate. In March of the same year, he underwent surgery to implant a ventricular assist device (LVAD) to support his failing heart. The LVAD served as a bridge until a suitable donor heart could be found.

COTA, a non-profit organization, stepped in to help alleviate the Cobbs’ financial burden. A dedicated team of volunteers used social media to raise funds for Cayce’s transplant-related expenses, alleviating a massive weight from the family’s shoulders.

The wait for a new heart can be agonizingly long. However, for Cayce, the wait was surprisingly short. Less than two months after the LVAD surgery, the Cobbs received news they’d been praying for: a heart suitable for Cayce was available.

“After enjoying a nice weekend at home, we were heading to Cayce’s school band awards banquet on April 25 [2023] when we got the call that a heart had been found for Cayce,” Cobb said. “We were in shock because we had never expected it would happen so fast.”

The following day, Cayce underwent a successful heart transplant surgery. It was a life-changing moment, not just for Cayce, but for his entire family.

The Cobbs’ journey wasn’t without its challenges. Transplant-related expenses can be a substantial burden for many families. Luckily, the Cobbs found support from the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA).

“Cayce’s goal is to study engineering and math,” Cobb said. “We are excited to see how his future unfolds with his new heart.”

Recent studies show that cardiovascular disease is a chronic condition that can significantly affect the heart and is one of the leading causes of poor health. Sadly, in the United States, the African American population has a 23 percent higher risk of serious heart disease complications compared to the white population.

(Photo/Getty Images)

To address this issue, IU Health’s iHEART initiative, A community health worker-led cardiovascular health equity program, has taken the initiative to offer free health screenings in community barbershops. The screenings include blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes assessments. For those who show signs of elevated blood pressure, IU Health offers free additional support from virtual health consultants. One person who benefited from the healthy collaboration was 51-year-old Derrick Mack.

Mack went to his local barbershop, All in the Wrists, in November for his typical haircut. While he was waiting, barbershop owner Marvin Taylor suggested that Mack get his blood pressure checked at the table. Naturally, Mack was not expecting such a service in the same place where he gets his hair cut.

Mack had no idea that his blood pressure was dangerously high, putting him at a very high risk of developing a stroke or heart attack. Mack was able to arrange an appointment for his health concerns by the next day, thanks to an unconventional blood pressure screening.

“I was scared when I saw those numbers,” Mack said. “I hadn’t been feeling my best, but you know, Black men, we don’t want to go to the doctor; we don’t make it a priority.”

Mack, however, made his health a priority. Following his results, Mack improved his diet, began taking medication for hypertension, and even hired a personal trainer, saying he wanted to be around for his kids.

“I need to be here for my kids – so with the supports I’ve been given, I’m going to put in the work to make sure I’m still here,” Mack said.

Contact multimedia and sports reporter Noral Parham at 317-762-7846. Follow him on Twitter @3Noral. For more news courtesy of the Indianapolis Recorder, click here.

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