Although the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro continue, Mayo Clinic lung transplant patient Curtis Higgons is already back home in Jacksonville polishing his medals. Granted, he didn't get them in Rio, but he did earn them during a competition that’s also a pretty big deal: The 2016 Transplant Games of America. "They're set up similar to the Olympic Games," says Curtis, who competed in three events: bowling, darts and Texas Hold-Em poker.
Saying he "competed" might be understating things a bit. "I actually took home four medals," Curtis tells us. "I won gold in Texas Hold-Em and three silvers in bowling — one for individuals, another for doubles, and a third for mixed doubles. It was pretty awesome." We couldn't agree more, especially considering everything Curtis has overcome in his life.
Curtis was born with cystic fibrosis, an "inherited chronic disease" that affected the function of his lungs and digestive system, according to this story on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog. Though his family received the diagnosis when Curtis was six months old, he says the disease "only had minor effects" on his breathing throughout most of his childhood. That changed when Curtis reached high school. "I was a varsity athlete in bowling and golf, but during my sophomore year of high school things began to progress, and I ended up in the hospital three times," he says.
After high school, Curtis' health took another turn for the worse, requiring him to seek additional treatment at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. It was there that Curtis was told the true seriousness of his condition and that he'd require a double-lung transplant for survival.
It's now been almost three years since that life-saving transplant, and Curtis tells us that, all things considered, life couldn't be better. "Honestly, my life's done a complete 180 since my transplant," he says. "I feel great and no longer have to deal with all of the things I used to. I can essentially do whatever I want."
Like start his own video production company. Or compete in a national Olympic-style competition with other transplant recipients while also setting his sights on the World Transplant Games in Malaga, Spain, next June. "I already know I'm going to Spain," Curtis says. "I also know I probably wouldn't be doing any of this had I not had my transplant at Mayo Clinic. And whenever I compete, I'm going to do my best to represent Mayo, as well, because they've done so much for me."
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