On Dec. 12, former Baltimore Ravens tight end Konrad Reuland died at age 29. He had suffered a brain aneurysm two weeks earlier and never recovered, but because his other organs had not been affected, his family donated them to someone who might be sick enough to use them.
Three days after Reuland’s death, baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew received a new heart and kidney after more than a year of ill health following a heart attack. All he and his family initially knew was that the organs came from a 29-year-old male donor who had died at UCLA Medical Center, and all Reuland’s family knew was that Konrad’s heart and left kidney had gone to a 71-year-old man in Southern California.
But both families soon put two and two together: Carew’s heart and kidney had come from Reuland. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, it’s the first organ transplant between professional athletes. (Carew, who won seven American League Batting Average titles during his career, started with the Minnesota Twins before being traded to the Californa Angels.)
As documented in a story by Garrett Downing on the Ravens’ team website, the two families have since connected in the wake of all this, with the Reulands visiting Carew and his wife, Rhonda, soon after he was released from the hospital in February.
“We lost a wonderful man, so it had to go into a wonderful person,” Reuland’s mother, Mary, said she told Rod. “I couldn’t be happier that it went to such a wonderful man.”
Said Carew, who is expected to make a full recovery: “I will take care of this one because I’ve been given a second chance, and God knows how I feel and what I’m going to do for him.”
Amazingly enough, Reuland had met Carew nearly two decades earlier as an 11-year-old, as he went to middle school in California with the MLB great’s kids.
“ ‘You know I met Rod Carew!’ ” Mary recalled him saying. “That’s how it was the whole rest of the day. It was really kind of cute.
“For him to meet a pro athlete at that age, it was like the best thing that could happen to him,” she said.