WSVN — Joel Thompson is known for his moves on the football field.

Annmarie Thompson: "He's a very shy kid, but he loves to play sports, always smiling."

But during the first week of practice, Joel started complaining of severe stomach pain.

Joel Thompson: "It felt like a truck hit me in my stomach."

After several doctor visits, it turned out not to be his stomach, but his heart.

Annmarie Thompson: "That's when we found out he had a failing heart. Hs heart was failing. It was like a nightmare."

Joel was in bad shape by the time he was sent to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.

Dr. Frank Scholl, Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery: "He was tired, he couldn't lay flat, he was having an irregular heart rhythm because of his heart failure."

Doctors say his heart was twice its normal size.

Dr. Frank Scholl: "It's barely squeezing, not really pumping a whole lot of blood with that."

Then the most frightening news of all: the 14-year-old desperately needed a heart transplant. It was Joel who helped calm his mother down.

Annmarie Thompson: "He would tell me, 'It's going to be OK, don't worry, don't get stressed.'"

His condition was getting worse, when a nurse came to them with the news.

Annmarie Thompson: "She said, 'I have good news for you,' and I said, 'What?' She said, 'We found a heart for Joel,' and I said, 'Thank you, God!'"

Joel had his heart transplant last November. Doctors have performed eight heart transplants on children since the program started almost three years ago.

Dr. Frank Scholl: "This is Joel's new heart, and it's just working a lot better, squeezing all the blood out."

Joel says his recovery hasn't been easy, but it's been worth it.

Joel Thompson: "I feel like a whole new man, feel like I can do anything I want."

As for the donor family, his mom has a message for them.

Annmarie Thompson: "They lost someone, but their child lives on inside my son, so they're always going to be a part of our family."

Joel will have to be closely monitored the rest of his life. He would like to get back on the football field soon, but he says right now he's focused on helping other kids going through the very same thing.

Joel Thompson: "If they need a new heart or a new organ or something, I can tell them how I went through it."

You can see how important this transplant program is to families just like Joel's, so join Channel 7 as we take part in Tour de Broward. Walk, run or cycle to raise money for the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Cardiac Center. The event is February 24th. For more information and where to sign up log on to


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