Two years ago, Ryan Scoble was playing lacrosse when he felt short of breath and fatigued. He wondered if he had the flu.
“I was struggling in warmups. I got in late in the third quarter,” the 23-year-old lacrosse long stick middie from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania, told TODAY’s Harry Smith. “I was struggling to make plays and even really stand up.”
Scoble spoke to his coach, Chris Ryan, before crashing.
“He said, ‘Coach, I just can’t, I can’t catch my breath.’ And we got him over to the trainer,” Ryan told Smith. “All of a sudden, everything started happening.”
Scoble was in heart failure. He had dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart condition where the heart muscle loses strength and becomes enlarged. Then it’s unable to pump enough blood throughout the body, according to the National Library of Medicine.
The news felt devastating to Scoble.
“I’m at the peak of my college … life. I’m 21,” he recalled. “I’m in the middle of a lacrosse season, and now I’m being told I have heart failure.”
Doctors knew his best chance was to receive a heart transplant, and he went to the Cleveland Clinic for care until a heart was available. At the same time, his dad, Steve Scoble, was healing from a heart transplant. He has the same condition as his son.
“It’s been a weird way to bond with my dad,” Scoble said. “I don’t recommend bonding through your dad with two transplants.”
While waiting, Scoble became very ill. His weight dropped to 142 pounds, a 60-pound loss. He even died for 11 seconds and needed to be revived. After his transplant, building back his strength felt insurmountable. So he gave himself pep talks to feel motivated.
“You’re at ground zero right now. There’s only room for improvement,” he would telling himself. “There’s only (one) place to step up from here.”
He hoped that he could rebuild his muscle and return to the field. His doctors felt doubtful.
“They looked at me like, ‘Dude, you died here like four months ago and now you want to go back to a full contact sport,’” Scoble recalled.
But he was determined. Taking the field again felt exciting.
“I remember running out there and being like, ‘Oh wow … I can hit somebody,’” Scoble said. “I remember the first time making that contact, and it was just like ‘Wow.’”
Scoble thought of his heart while playing.
“I was checking in on him,” he said. “He was doing fine.”
After recovering and returning to play, Scoble feels grateful for his donor.
“Due to his donation and his selflessness, I’m able to continue with my life. I’m able to graduate from college and to move into my young adult life — something I thought at one point was over,” he said. “His generous donation is what wakes me up every day.”