Heart transplant recipient becomes world-traveling gold-medal athlete

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Thursday, August 18, 2022
Heart transplant recipient becomes world-traveling gold-medal athlete
67-year-old Janet Dennis is proving that a good athlete comes with a good heart, whether or not it's the one they're born with.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I would not believe, at 67, I'm still like, doing the long jump," said Janet Dennis.

Dennis never considered herself a very active person throughout most of her life. She spent 35 years as a social worker for the Department of Human Services in Philadelphia. And while climbing stairs to reach her train, she noticed she felt out of breath.

"They said a virus attacked my heart and put me in heart failure, which made no sense to me," she said. "I never had been sick. The last time I was in the hospital was the day I was born. You're telling me I need a new heart?"

One pacemaker and defibrillator later, Dennis needed a heart transplant. And luckily, she received one in 2005.

"I just want them to know how thankful and grateful I am," she said. "And I'm having the time of my life. I'm doing stuff I would have never did before."

That includes becoming a gold-medalist at the Transplant Games of America. Traveling nationwide and to countries across the world, Dennis competed in swimming, shot put, discus, and long jump for a total of 51 medals.

"It's like my schedule," she said. "Every year, I go somewhere."

Dennis' story is one among many who have received the gift of life.

"One person can save the lives of eight individual organ recipients," said Rick Hasz, President and CEO of Gift of Life Donor Program. "But also through tissue donation can help over 100 different recipients."

Gift of Life acts as a liaison between donor families and donor recipients.

"Right now, we have over 100,000 patients who are awaiting a transplant in the nation and over 5,000 here in our area," said Hasz. "So, the need is still great. And it all starts with a family saying yes to organ donation."

To learn more about becoming an organ donor or Gift of Life, visit their website.

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