‘Strike Out Heart Disease’

UPMC Chautauqua’s cardiac rehab team, from left, Brenda, Karen, Amy, Rhonda and Kelly surround Cody with some of the baskets for Strike Out Heart Disease being held Sunday at Jamestown Bowling Company.

When I first heard the name Cody Crandall, it was from my husband, Coach Barone. He told me about a story of a young man that he used to coach at Jamestown Community College for baseball.

He was devastated with the news of Cody needing a new heart, being that he had remembered him as a vibrant young man, full of life and aspirations. He never once fell short on the field, or in the game of baseball. They both loved the game, and as Cody continued his journey in sports, with coaching himself and writing sports news for The Post Journal, they both continued a friendship like my husband has with so many of his past players.

I remember the very moment we were talking about Cody, we were driving to Annapolis, and we had known he was in Strong Memorial Hospital. But, we didn’t know exactly the outcome only that he had needed to have a heart transplant. As we were talking, I could see that wonderment in Anthony’s eyes, desperately seeking some answers as to what happened, and how Cody was doing. So, I just said, “why don’t you give him a call?” And, he did just that. Cody answered, surprised and excited that Coach Barone was calling him, and went on to tell him of his story.

Ironically enough, we were calling in the month of February, which is heart awareness month. He had been sitting in the hospital since November waiting for that call of finding him a new heart. While most people would wallow in their sorrow, Cody stood strong and listened to his doctors, and was lucky to have a great support system with his friends and family. Imagine an otherwise healthy young 24 year- old, playing softball the day before, going to get an iced coffee the next feeling out of breath, only ending up in UPMC Chautauqua emergency room to get transported to Hamot in Erie, and then flown to Strong Memorial. If this wasn’t scary enough, Cody woke up in the hospital, not knowing where he was or what had happened. He was lucky to be alive.

“I knew nothing about heart failure, and for me that was the toughest part.” The doctors didn’t know exactly what was going on with his heart and sent him home with some medication to hope for improvement. Cody went to UPMC Chautauqua cardiac rehab, hoping for success between that and his medication, but unfortunately, Cody’s heart weakened and wasn’t doing better like the doctor’s had hoped. Cody was home for about 3 months, and then readmitted to Strong Memorial in November. Then came the moment of truth, Cody was told he couldn’t leave the hospital until he had undergone a heart transplant.

Fast forward to May 16, the day he was told they had a heart for him. He was in disbelief at first and felt so many different emotions. He knew he was in a dire situation, and this is what he was hoping to hear from the moment he was told back in November he couldn’t leave until he had a new heart. His thought went directly to the family of the donor. Typical Cody, always thinking of others before himself. “My heart really went out to the family of my donor, and I’m so appreciative that they chose organ donation. I can’t imagine what they must feel with their loss, but I’m happy I was chosen as the recipient,” Cody said.

As his transplant cardiologist Dr. Himabindu Vidula had stated earlier, “Cody showed a lot of strength and maturity when told he required a transplant. I believe this had allowed him to heal and have a speedy recovery.” Cody isn’t going to sugar coat it and say it was all easy. He broke down emotionally as everyone does when undergoing such a life changing event. But, all in all he was an amazing young man, with the determination and perseverance to get better quickly. Just days after post-op, Cody stood in the hallway at Strong Memorial walking with a gentle assist. He was back home in Jamestown only after a couple of weeks. He began his cardiac rehab at UPMC Chautauqua. He was extremely happy with the support he received from all staff. “I have become such good friends with all of the cardiac rehab staff, they have supported me emotionally, physically and mentally through this rehab. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their help. Even though I have “officially” graduated from their program, I still go and visit them often, they have become like my second family.”

Cody is an ambassador for not only for heart awareness, but also as an ambassador for organ transplant awareness. As I stated before, February is Heart Awareness Month, and Cody is here representing the younger generation. “Heart failure, or anything heart related can happen at any age. If you aren’t feeling well, and you know in your mind that something isn’t right, please go get checked out. Listen to your body, because it is trying to tell you something,” stated Cody. He is here to bring awareness and encouragement to others.

Please join Cody and UPMC Chautauqua’s cardiac rehab as they “Strike Out Heart Disease” presented by Shults Auto Group with a bowling event held at Jamestown Bowling Company, 840 Foote Ave., on Sunday at 2 pm. Registration is $15, which includes bowling. There will be basket giveaways, heart healthy snacks, blood pressure checks, heart awareness information and prizes. All proceeds from this event will go directly to UPMC Chautauqua’s cardiac rehab program. “There’s still room to bowl, so call today,” stated Cody. If you would like to find out more information, please visit wcafoundationjamestown.org or call 664-8423.