LOS ANGELES – Baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew was being prepared Thursday morning to receive a new heart to replace the machine that’s kept him alive since he nearly died following a heart attack and cardiac arrest 15 months ago.
“We appreciate your thoughts and prayers for Rod and the medical team,” his wife Rhonda told American Heart Association News. “At the same time, our sympathy and appreciation goes to the donor’s family.”
The 71-year-old Carew is among the greatest hitters of all-time, a seven-time American League batting champion and first-ballot selection to the Hall of Fame. On Sept. 20, 2015, he suffered the kind of heart attack known as the “widow maker” because of its low survival rates. While undergoing a procedure to open clogged arteries, he went into cardiac arrest.
After improving enough to go home, he was hospitalized again days later and diagnosed with extreme heart failure; his heart was too weak to effectively pump blood to the rest of his body. He could’ve used a transplant then, but doctors feared that his body was too traumatized. So they implanted a left ventricular assist device, a machine that took over the pumping duties.
The LVAD enabled Carew to resume a mostly normal life — including partnering with the American Heart Association on “Heart of 29,” a campaign to boost awareness and prevention of heart disease. It was named for the jersey he wore throughout his 19-year career with the Minnesota Twins and California Angels.
This summer, Carew endured several complications related to his LVAD, occasionally prompting hospitalizations. The most serious came after returning home from the Hall of Fame in late July, prompting doctors to recommend that a new heart was a matter of necessity, not convenience.
Doctors planned to also transplant a new kidney to improve his chances for a strong recovery.