It never occurred to NBA Power Forward Chris Wilcox that at the young age of 29 he could be facing a life threatening heart condition. The frightening news came in March 2012, in the midst of a solid basketball season for Wilcox who was leading the Boston Celtics in field goal percentage and averaging 17.2 minutes per game.
"Did I really want to die playing basketball?" Wilcox said. "I had never had surgery in my life...I was more so scared."
During a routine heart screening team doctors discovered that Wilcox had an enlarged heart, as his aorta had rapidly thickened, and this required immediate surgery. Wilcox underwent a complex surgery called The Modified David's Reimplantation Procedure, his surgeon Dr. Lars Svensson's specialty, at The Cleveland Clinic on March 29, 2012. Miraculously, Wilcox made a full recovery in just three months and was cleared to resume basketball and training activities. A week later the Boston Celtics re-signed him to a one year contract.
Chris Wilcox and Celtics teammate Jeff Green sit down with WCVB anchor Liz Brunner to talk about their open heart surgeries.
Since his surgery Wilcox has become a passionate advocate, spreading awareness about heart disease and sharing how grateful he is for the heart screening that saved his life. As a heart disease survivor, Wilcox and his wife Tiffany have teamed up with The American Heart Association to build healthier lives and raise support and awareness for cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Working with AHA chapters in both Boston, MA and Raleigh, NC, Chris and Tiffany hope to make a significant impact by inspiring others to live heart healthy lives. From meeting with state legislators on proposed AHA bills to attending Hoops for Hearts events to supporting Go Red for Women, they hope that by sharing Chris' story, a spark will be felt nationwide to change toward healthier lifestyles.
Chris visits with a cardiac patient at The Boston Children's Hospital on October 22, 2012.
In addition to their work with the AHA, Chris and Tiffany are always open to advocating heart health. While in Boston Chris has been a strong supporter of The Boston Children's Hospital, attending its fundraising gala in November 2012 and visiting the cardiac unit both in October and December. During his first trip, he spent time with the young cardiac patients and shared the story of his own surgery and rehabilitation, inspiring them to keep fighting for a full reocvery. He then reunited with them in December 2012 when the Celtics visited BCH as a team to celebrate the holidays.
Chris and Tiffany are photographed here with a Boston Children's patient at the Boston Children's Hospital Gala on November 17, 2012.
Heart disease remains the number one killer of Americans. Stroke comes in at number four. Each year, these diseases kill more than 813,000 Americans, more than the next three causes of death combined. More than 82 million Americans have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease and heart disease is the cause of one in four deaths in women. Please join Chris and Tiffany in supporting The American Heart Association as they try to help save lives and win the battle against heart disease.
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