Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hearts of a Champion

Connor Randall was fading.

In 2004, doctors determined that the 12-year-old's transplanted heart, which he had received when he was six months old, was failing. For 13 months, the Arvada resident waited for another donor heart, all the while getting sicker. By the summer of 2005, Connor could barely walk up the stairs. He always was wrapped in a blanket, his fading heart unable to circulate enough blood to keep his body warm. He felt it each time his heart took a beat: It literally shook him.

In those days, he often felt another regular shiver -- this one at his hip. It was his prayer phone line -- a cell phone set to vibrate. Every time a friend or relative prayed for Connor, they'd dial the number, and he'd feel it vibrate.

The first day he had the phone, it buzzed more than 200 times.

Don't try to tell Connor that prayer doesn't matter. In a battle that's as much mental as physical, according to Connor, the prayer phone gave him a boost every time it buzzed. In August, 2005, he underwent heart transplant surgery again -- getting his third heart in 13 years.

Connor Randall, now 14, will take part in the 2006 American Heart Association Heart Walk, a 5-kilometer event in Memorial Park. He's making the rounds these days, talking about his heart operations, showing off his scars and stressing that heart disease is still Colorado's No. 1 killer.

As a religion writer, I wondered what part faith played in Connor's life during his sickness and recovery: Whether he felt God had deserted him during his sickness, whether it's possible to pray for another heart when it means someone else has to die.

While some might see some pretty rotten luck behind not one, but two faulty hearts, Connor sees a trail of small miracles. Though he doesn't know who his heart donor was, Connor prays for the donor's family every day.

The American Heart Association Heart Walk begins at 7:30 a.m. June 3. To register, go here.


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