Skyline High School senior Chase Tasker had a heart transplant when he was 11.
Six years later, “I feel fine,” he said. “I never feel anything.”
Chase is a catcher for his school’s baseball team and said he is planning to start pitching this week. Last fall, he was starting quarterback for the Skyline Hawks. After graduation this spring, he’s thinking of going to Lord Fairfax Community College, but he’s still considering his career options.
By all appearances he’s a healthy 17-year-old, so most people on the sidelines wouldn’t guess what the last six years have looked like for a teen on twice-a-day anti-rejection medication, and a family with a hereditary heart condition.
Chase’s diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy has changed his family forever, and so has the unknown person who donated a heart to him.
The condition, which affects the heart’s ability to pump blood as the heart becomes enlarged and weakens, runs in families.
His mother Renee Tasker, of Middletown, said that Chase inherited the condition from his father. Chase’s older brother, Aaron, carries the gene, and they, in turn, could each pass it on if they have children, Tasker said.
But having that knowledge is a huge help, because the rest of the family can now get tested and, they hope, discover any issues before symptoms begin.
“We’re all on the lookout for it,” Tasker said. “Will it stop it? No. But you have a better chance.”
A longtime supporter of organ donation, Tasker said she’s an even bigger proponent today and hopes that everyone who’s able will consider electing to donate their organs after death.
“You don’t need ’em when you die,” she said.
The Taskers don’t know who donated the heart to Chase, but he said if he could ever meet them, he would offer his condolences for their loss and thank them for the gift.
”I would probably be lost for words,” he said.
Asked what it’s meant for him to receive a heart, he said, “To be able to hang out with my friends and play sports and to be able to do normal things. To live a normal life.”
The need for organ transplants is likely more prevalent than many people realize. The American Transplant Foundation reports that almost 114,000 people in the U.S. are on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant, and another name is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.
Chase’s paternal uncle is waiting on a heart transplant, and Tasker said a young acquaintance of hers needs a double lung transplant.
She said she hopes that any misinformation about organ donation won’t keep people from registering.
She recalled how when her son was waiting on a heart, a doctor advised her to pray that her son would get a heart in time.
“I will not pray for another child to die to save mine,” she recalled telling the doctor.
“And he says, ‘No you’re wrong. You need to pray [for the family] of the child who’s already dead, that the family can make the decision to donate the life.’”