Erik Compton continues to recover, inspire with his won't-quit spirit
By Randall Mell
Miami's Erik Compton headed to the second heart transplant surgery of his young life determined to do more than recover.
"I'm going to be the comeback kid," Compton told his longtime friend and mentor, Charlie DeLucca, a couple hours before surgery.
Compton, 28, was doing well when DeLucca, chairman of the Miami-Dade Amateur Golf Association, visited Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital on Friday
He didn't get to see Compton, who was still in intensive care, but the reports he got from Erik's parents were uplifting. Erik underwent six-and-a-half hours of surgery early Tuesday morning.
"He's off the ventilator, breathing on his own and his heart's working," said DeLucca, a close friend to Compton and his parents, Peter and Eli. "Everything's positive.
"His second day he was out of bed and sitting in a chair."
Compton, the former No. 1 junior in the nation and Georgia All-American, touched lives with his golf that reached beyond the game.
That will be evident when the second annual Partners Golf Classic presented by the Boucher Brothers is played June 5 at Miami Beach Golf Club. It's a fundraiser for the Transplant Foundation, an organization affiliated with the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. It's also a fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club.
At 12, Compton didn't just become the youngest heart transplant recipient of the time at Jackson Memorial. He became an inspiration for other recovering transplant patients.
As a pro, Compton won on the Canadian Tour, Hooters Tour and internationally as a pro. He was working toward winning his PGA Tour card when his heart began to fail last fall.
Ten years ago Saturday, in my first account of Erik's remarkable heart transplant story, I quoted the director of Jackson Memorial's pediatric heart transplant program at that time on the impact of Erik's golf.
"People have the idea organ transplant recipients will look different, be different, but Erik shows you can have a transplant and lead a normal life," Dr. Lee Ann Pearse told me back then. "He looks like anybody else. You would never know what he's gone through, and he's happily pursuing his dreams and goals. He's making such a positive statement."
Jim McLean, Compton's teacher and friend, is among those inspired by the statement Compton's eager to continue to make.
"With a new heart, anything's possible," McLean said. "Erik showed us that. He has such an indomitable spirit."
Compton's story also impacts lifesaving organ donor programs. His mother, Eli, became so devoted to the cause that today she's the executive director of the Transplant Foundation. That organization's missions include the funding of transplant research and education on the importance of organ donation.
Before his surgery, Compton released this statement to promote the Partners Golf Classic: "It's important for individuals to know that they can make a difference in a person's life by participating in charity events. Their assistance grants the Foundation with the opportunity to continue providing education to the community about the importance of organ donation and provide aid to those patients who need it most."
For more information on the tournament, go to Transplant Foundation or call 305-817-5645..
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