Tears filled the room as Southmoreland graduate Matthew Huff stood in front of the auditorium holding a stethoscope to his chest.
“This is my new heart,” Huff told an audience of more than 300 high school students and staff as they listened to the beat of a heart he received in a transplant in September. “If I could, I would thank the person who was an organ donor who allowed me to still be standing here before you today.”
On March 7, Huff brought in Core, a non-profit which navigates the intricate system of human organ donation, to be part of an assembly at Southmoreland High School to tell his story to his former classmates and teachers as well as explain the organ donation process.
“I was in the hospital for 43 days,” Huff said as he explained the process which took place just before his transplant. “But that wasn’t when my battle started.”
Huff started his battle when he was only a few days old, starting with an open heart surgery followed by two more surgeries.
“I was 15 is when my chest pains got uncomfortable for me,” said Huff.” I went to the hospital and they started me on a “picc” line, which starts in the arm and puts medicine into your heart. It is generally used for heart failure, which we didn’t know I was having at the time.”
However, the picc line wasn’t going to be enough for Huff as he soon would learn information that was going to leave his head “spinning.”
“I was sitting on the edge of my bed one day and my doctor came in and I could tell something was wrong,” said Huff.” He was acting different. He soon came to tell me that I was going to need a new heart.”
As the conversation continued, Huff said he sat “with a blank stare” on his face trying to process what he had just been told.
“All I could think of was, ‘When am I going to need it? Do I need it today? Tomorrow? Or when I’m 30?’ My head was spinning.”
However, on Sept. 14, 2017, Huff got the call that doctors had found the perfect heart for his condition.
“Honestly, when they told me that at first I didn’t believe them,” Huff said. “I actually had my stuff packed up to leave Wednesday night. I’m so glad that I didn’t make that decision though, because if I had, I wouldn’t be standing here before you today. I probably wouldn’t be here at all.”
Huff concluded his assembly with a thank you to the donor, along with his family.
“I’m very grateful that man decided to check the organ donor box,” Huff said, “because he gave me a second chance at life.”