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A Matter Of Heart
Rick Reilly
December 26, 2005
The toughest teenager to shop for in all of America has to be high school hoops player Steve Ketcham. There's almost nothing on his Christmas list.
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December 26, 2005

A Matter Of Heart

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The toughest teenager to shop for in all of America has to be high school hoops player Steve Ketcham. There's almost nothing on his Christmas list.

That's because Steve Ketcham knows he's supposed to be dead right now.

In August 2004, Steve--the 6'5", 190-pound center for Cheyenne Mountain High in Colorado Springs--was driving with his family to Asheville, N.C. Somewhere around Kansas, Steve, 18, started feeling lousy.

"Stomach flu," his mom, Suzy, suspected.

By Tennessee he was worse.

"Appendicitis?" his dad, Craig, guessed.

By Asheville, Steve was begging to go to the hospital.

A virus was attacking his heart. X-rays showed it was grotesquely swollen. A chopper and ambulance got him to Duke University Hospital, but shortly afterward his heart stopped for 20 minutes. "He was pretty much dead," says ICU nurse Celine Roberts, who helped treat him.

Only a heart-lung machine kept Steve alive for the next two days. He was in a coma and had a stroke. All told, he underwent five open-heart surgeries and one stomach operation. Slipping fast, he was vaulted to the top rank of the nation's heart-transplant candidates.

On Sept. 22, 2004, in a city three hours away by jet, a 15-year-old boy was crossing the street when he was hit by a car and killed, just like that. But that kid's death gave life. His heart was put on ice and jetted to Duke. By this time Steve was down to 120 pounds and "looked like a concentration camp victim," says his mom. According to Dr. Andrew Lodge, inserting the heart was made tougher by all the holes in Steve's body.

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