WAYNE, NJ – TJ Olsen, the 8-year-old son of former Wayne Hills High School and NFL tight end, Greg Olsen had successful heart transplant surgery this weekend and the Olsen family is feeling grateful.
TJ’s congenital heart defect was detected before he was born. He suffered from hypoplastic left heart syndrome which impairs normal blood through the heart. TJ’s first open-heart surgery was days after his birth, and he had three in total before his third birthday.
Since then, TJ has been living a relatively healthy life with a modified heart. But last month Greg Olson announced that this heart was failing too.
“Unfortunately, it seems his heart is reaching its end,” said Greg on Twitter. “We are currently working through the process to determine our next steps, which ultimately could lead to a heart transplant.”
In just eight days of being on the heart donor list, a match was found.
“Day 8- Today is a day of mixed emotions,” Olsen tweeted. “A day we have prayed for has arrived. We were alerted last night that there was a donor match for TJ to receive his heart transplant.”
On June 4, TJ underwent the successful surgery to replace his heart. The eight-year-old was “sedated for a few days” after the surgery, according to a tweet from his father.
“TJ is finished with surgery and is being transferred to the ICU,” Olsen tweeted Friday evening. “We won’t be able to see him for a few more hours but his doctors are very happy with the surgery. TJ will be sedated for a few days but his road to recovery has begun.”
Then on June 7, Olsen posted a video of his son awake in a hospital bed saying hello and expressing gratitude.
With the hiss of oxygen flowing through his nose, monitor wires sticking to his chest and IV flowing into his hand, the young warrior said in a weak voice, “Hi everybody. Thank you for thinking of me, and thank you for praying with me.” He put his hand over his heart as he said, “We love you guys.”
The donor whose heart now beats in TJ's chest is unknown, but the Olsen family sent out a tweet to the donor’s family, whoever they are.
“To our generous angel donor, we don’t know who you are or where you lived. But know that bc of your selflessness, our son TJ will have a chance at life. We pray your family finds peace and maybe one day our paths shall cross.”
Greg and his wife Kara also sent out their appreciation for everyone who supported them over the last month.
“Our hearts are full tonight,” they said in a tweet. “The love and support we have received from all over the nation has brought incredible strength to my family during this difficult times. The texts, calls, tweets, hashtags, tshirts, etc. We hear you, and we feel your [love].”
The former Wayne Hills High School athlete has formed a foundation to support families of children with heart defects. It’s called the HEARTest Yard. According to their website, the foundation provides “a range of services, including in-home private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, at no charge to families. The program ultimately aims to help prevent children's complications from congenital heart disease and improve their long-term health.”
If you would like to donate to this foundation, click here.
Play for TJ shirts are available to purchase and all proceeds to the HEARTest Yard. Click here to purchase one.