A Simsbury High School football player is on the road to recovery after undergoing a successful heart transplant.
Danny Deitz, 16, began having trouble breathing in the spring and spent nearly two weeks in intensive care. An X-ray revealed Danny had an "extremely enlarged" left ventricle, he said.
"The heart... it normally pumps like that," Danny explained, using his hand to show the steady pace at which a heart should beat. "My heart was basically pumping in like that," he said, moving his hand at a much quicker pace.
An electric pump known as an LVAD was implanted to help circulate blood throughout his body.
Danny had been on the transplant list for about two months when a doctor called Thursday and said Boston Children's Hospital had the perfect new heart for him.
"It's THE heart. Not A heart. THE heart," the doctor said, according to Danny's father, Terry.
It came as a surprise to Danny and his family, who expected to wait three to eight months before surgery. Instead, Danny was in the operating room late Thursday evening, undergoing a procedure that lasted seven hours.
Danny, a wide receiver on the Simsbury football team, fell ill in June and has been unable to play this school year.
"It was really hard to talk to all of my friends because they were getting ready for pre-season stuff and it was hard to know I was missing out on all of that," he said.
But the community rallied around him to show Danny he wasn't alone, raising $7,000 for his surgery by selling shirts that read "Danny Strong."
Teammates said they were shocked to hear the news of an early heart transplant.
"He was with us at practice and then all of a sudden he’s got the memo that he’s getting a heart! Today! I just found that very, very crazy!" said teammate Dan Shaffer.
Before Danny left for surgery, he told NBC Connecticut his heart condition has changed his perspective.
"If I never play another day of football the rest of my life, I’d be bummed, but if I didn’t get to see the rest of my friends – my brothers who I play football with – that would be worse than not being able to play," he said.
Danny will spend two weeks recovering in the hospital and will be out of school for about three months, depending on his progress, his family estimates.
Tonight the Simsbury Trojans are hosting East Hartford and held a pre-game tribute featuring his teammates' "Danny Strong" chant.