by: Natalie Pasquarella Updated:
A father is practicing for a national competition with athletes who have received organ transplants, just like him.
Tom Aspenwall said at 54 years old, he feels better than he did in his 20s.
"I feel strong. I feel healthy. I feel like I'm living," Aspenwall said.
Aspenwall grew up very active, becoming a member of the presidential honor guard and always in peak physical condition until he found out about his failing heart at just 21 years old.
"Just started feeling real bad one day. Shortness of breath, fatigue nausea, and started gaining weight,” said Aspenwall.
Doctors found Aspenwall had an enlarged heart and would eventually need a transplant.
"You're bewildered. I mean it's just, is this for real? I just couldn't believe it,” said Aspenwall
Aspenwall’s condition worsened over the next 20 years. In 2007, he was finally added to a transplant list.
He said the donor family gave him his life back.
"I got to see my oldest daughter graduate at University of North Carolina Charlotte as an elementary school teacher that summer, walk her down the aisle when she got married and then go on to see two beautiful grandsons," said Aspenwall.
Now Aspenwall devotes all his time to raising awareness. He is getting ready for the Transplant Games of America, a national sports competition for organ recipients, this weekend.
He also works as a family support coordinator educating families contemplating organ donation- job he called a gift.
"What better gift to give than the gift of life?” he said. “There’s no better gift”.