Former Carolina Panthers star Greg Olsen is “humbled” by the outpouring of support he and his family have received since sharing the news that his 8-year-old son is getting a second chance at life after successfully undergoing transplant surgery last week after suffering from a congenital heart condition since birth.
The legendary NFL tight end joined “Fox & Friends” on Thursday morning to provide an update on son TJ who successfully underwent a 14-hour surgery on Friday after his health took a shocking turn for the worse late last month.
“The past month has just been a surreal experience,” he said. It began with he and his wife first planning for summer and then “making all these plans for school to finish.” The 14-year pro said TJ “was a little off and not feeling great” so he and his wife took him “to his cardiologist for a routine checkup and hours later we find ourselves admitted to the ICU and it’s determined that TJ’s in pretty severe heart failure.”
TJ was born in October 2012 with a rare congenital heart condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. He has undergone three open-heart surgeries in more than two years. Olsen said they were immediately placed on the transplant list.
“On day seven I was coming back in with lunch and I walked into our hospital room where TJ was waiting and there was a team of doctors and TJ was sitting on the bed and I could just tell by the look on everyone’s face that we got an offer for a donor and about 24 hours later TJ was in the operating room and we were holding our breath for what would be a 14-hour heart transplant surgery.”
Olsen said he received an overwhelming amount of support, including from the Panthers who illuminated Bank of America Stadium in TJ’s favorite color the night of his surgery.
“We’re so thankful for everybody involved that we were able to have that healthcare and have that success and it’s just truly remarkable what we’re able to do.”
Olsen said that his son did not wake from his surgery until late Sunday night but just a few days out of surgery, he is walking around and is already feeling “a little bit more like himself.”
“To the entire region of the Carolinas, to across the country, friends, family, strangers alike — just thank you,” he said.
“The reason we shared TJ’s story is not to make it about TJ. The reason we shared TJ’s story now for almost nine years since the day he was born when he underwent his first open-heart surgery was to shed light on what this looks like,” Olsen said, “That’s why we do it, to raise awareness. To make people know that these kids are out there and they’re struggling and they need our help.”
Olsen once again thanked the “angel donor” that saved his son’s life.
“It’s been an unbelievably humbling experience for my wife and I. We’re fortunate for these doctors. As you mentioned, we’re super fortunate for that donor family [whose] last act of life was to be selfless and give my son a second chance.”