April 14, 2000

Triple-organ recipient making strides

Featured Image

Exercise Physiologist Pat Sells works with triple-transplant recipient Darrell Hedgecoth on his rehab program at the Dayani Center. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Triple-organ recipient making strides

On May 28, 18-year-old Darrell Hedgecoth will sport the colors of his school, maroon and white.

As a member of the Cheatham County Central High School class of 2000, Hedgecoth will join the other 268 students at the Dunn Center at Austin Peay State University for graduation ceremonies.

It's a great way to wrap up the past few months, he said.

"I am feeling great," Hedgecoth said. "I am looking forward to just getting home. You know, to be around all my stuff."

Two months ago, Hedgecoth became the first-ever recipient of a triple-organ transplant at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, receiving a heart, liver and lungs on Jan. 23. The 11-hour procedure came after living with cystic fibrosis for 10 years.

Nearly two weeks ago, he completed the necessary courses and exams to graduate from Cheatham County Central High School. For the past two years a homebound instructor served as his teacher. Hedgecoth was unable to attend school daily due to the severity of his illness.

Later this month he is set to return home to Ashland City. Since his release from the hospital following the transplant, Hedgecoth has lived in Nashville to be close to the medical center. Routine check-ups and exercise regimes keep him nearby as his body recuperates.

"I am doing everything I want to do," said Hedgecoth. "I wear a mask. I have to wear it for six months. I don't have to stay indoors or anything.

"The doctors are pretty happy. They say right now I am ahead of schedule. I like that."

Hedgecoth said he is very thankful for his new chance at life.

For six months he waited for a transplant. He understands how important the gift of life is.

"Every time I go out, I hand out donor cards. I've been passing them out and I could use some more. I even took some to my school and gave some to relatives to pass out too.

"Donating is never really something you think about. It's right there on the back of your license. You just don't pay attention to it until you are faced with it."

For now, Hedgecoth is readying himself for the move home, graduation and his 19th birthday on July 26.

He said he will take the year off from school to concentrate on getting better. After then, he plans to look into taking computer classes at Nashville Technological School, Tennessee Technological School or ITT Technological School.