SA resident to attend 'transplant Olympics'

Author: David Sears, Reporter, dsears@ksat.com
Published On: Jul 19 2012 06:32:56 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 19 2012 06:44:58 PM CDT
SAN ANTONIO -

Jakob Lopez grew up around the world as the son of an Army Soldier. He also grew up a soccer player -- two things not completely out of the ordinary.

What is out of the ordinary is that Lopez grew up with a heart murmur.

When he was 17 and playing for his high school soccer team in Louisiana, he felt something that wasn’t right after a game. Then it got worse.

"I couldn’t sleep. I couldn't eat. (I) couldn’t walk (or) breathe, " Lopez said.

He was sent to Philadelphia where doctors decided to operate on a defective bicuspid valve and things didn’t look good.

"They were telling my parents ... how to prepare for the funeral," Lopez said.

After four open heart surgeries, Lopez was informed he needed a heart transplant.

"I just remember thinking at that moment that this is bad," he said.

It actually turned out positive.

A few months after the transplant, Lopez was back on the soccer field scoring goals and becoming the MVP.

His talent earned him a scholarship to Mary Harden Baylor. 

After one season, Lopez decided the strain at that level was not good for his heart so he decided to call in a career and move to San Antonio to join his family while still going to college.

"(It was) probably the hardest decision I’ve  had to make,” Lopez said.

That disappointment lead to something positive. 

After being out of competitive sports for over a year, Lopez’s current transplant staff at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston called and informed him they wanted him to compete in the Transplant Games of America in Michigan.

"It still tears me up to have the opportunity to compete again," Lopez said.

Instead of soccer, Lopez will be competing in a new sport for him: cycling.

"This is something I just took up," he said.

But he said he is looking forward to the challenge.

“If there is something I can actually grab a hold of and actually have a passion for, why not make is cycling,” said Lopez.