Getting started after transplant!

Erik Comptong: Transplant RecipientFor me I couldn’t wait to get started! The doctors had to slow me down as I wanted to get into rehab just weeks after my transplant. Rehab is different for everyone depending on the type of transplant that you have.

Having had my chest cut wide open twice to receive a new heart it was important that the chest bone and cavity heal. This can take up to 8 weeks. Your doctor will know what’s best for your particular situation. As for me, they had me up and walking two days after my 2nd heart transplant. It was tough. I could only walk about ten yards back and forth with all the wires attached to me while in the ICU.

I was released from the hospital, about 15 days later. I stayed there longer than most because it was my second transplant. I was followed closely by the transplant team and my family. They will be right on top of you whether you like it or not. Getting used to the new medication can make your body feel strange and sometimes shaky. It is a shock to your system, it gets better over time and eventually your body and mind adjust.

Little by little I moved around the house and started walking around the block. I listened to my body, but pushed myself to get my heart rate up little by little. Not too much now!!! About 2-3 months after transplant I started jogging.

Within 7 weeks I was chipping in my yard and walking at a fast pace. Within a few months I was swinging a golf club and hitting balls slowly and walking 9 holes. If you happen to live in a tropical climate like I do (Miami, Florida) be careful with the heat and sun. The heat seems to take double effect on the transplant body. Drink lots of water and use sunscreen.

Riding bikes can be fun too, however I was always yelled at by my coordinators; they did not want me to do that too early in case the chest might not have been healed all the way and I happened to fall. To tell you the truth I was riding within a month secretly. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t recommend this to anyone. So do not follow my advice there. Ride a stationary bike at home!

I swam a lot after my second transplant. I tried to swim at a good pace for 30 to 45 minutes. The water was easier on my joints as my body had taken a pounding over the past year.

Weights and increased workout
After about 7 weeks post transplant I was working with light weights 3 to 5 time a week.
Within this time I started to jog and eventually worked up to about an hour 3 to 4 times a week! I know this sound like a lot, but I have to use my body to get the job done on the course. Running can be hard at times on my joints; so I like to mix it up with different workouts.

Because our immune system is suppressed I don’t recommend public gyms as they can be full of germs. Not until later when you have all your meds and levels right. I worked out slowly and tried to do some activity daily.

I love sports and training. I have always been an athlete and a competitor since I was born. Always competing with my friends. I played football, baseball, tennis, golf when I was a kid. I push myself to the limit now. Set backs happen from time to time. That is the card we are dealt. You have to constantly get at it; you have to beat these obstacles. You will get knocked down and getting back up!! That’s what it’s all about. We have all made it this far. Just keep on plugging!

Now that I’m back on tour and playing full time work outs are different. My routine has been adjusted. Since most of my time is spent traveling and on the course, organizing time is important. I feel I play my best when I am relaxed, loose and rested. I focus less on training after competitive rounds especially in the summer months. 5 to 6 hours in the sun walking around is taxing on my body. It’s taxing on everyone!! Competition is grinding, mentally and physically. Rest is the key to being ready for those last few holes on Sunday. The hard work that I do in the off season gets me ready for those moments. I also like to think that all those tough days I’ve been trough in the hospital makes me mentally prepared for those challenging days on the golf course too!

Dreaming and aiming high
From day one I always had high dreams. I visualized myself as a winner; I felt it in my heart and soul, close enough. I knew that I would be back on the course and playing at the highest level and winning. Even when I was lying on my back in the hospital waiting for my heart with little hope at all, I always believed in myself. It’s important to set your mind in the right place to allow yourself to achieve these dreams. They don’t happen over night. It is a process. Surround yourself with champions because that what you’re getting ready to be. Actually, we transplant recipients already are champions.

You’ll look back years later and won’t believe how far you’ve come. Living with a transplant is a gift and should be treasured. Be active in your community and help raise organ donor awareness. Now go out take your new life to the highest, and have on a great journey!