By ALVIN REINER
---- — LEWIS — Brock Marvin playfully guards his brother, Connor, during a basketball warm-up session — that was an impossible scenario two years ago.
Brock received a new heart in December 2010; Connor had a heart transplant on March 1 of this year.
The successful surgeries allowed the brothers to resume activities they love, in particular, soccer.
Brock was able to play goalie for the Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School boys’ soccer team last year and now guards the net for Oglethorpe University in Georgia, where he is a business major.
Connor, 17, a junior at ELCS, rejoined the soccer team in September.
“I am so thankful that I am able to do something again” said Connor, who before the surgery was, for all intents and purposes, sedentary.
The brothers’ gratitude goes far beyond that, however.
His heart, Brock said, “is a most gracious gift from a stranger.
“Most of all,” Connor said, “I am thankful for the heart donor’s family, who made a decision to have a loved one donate his organs to help others.
“It must have been difficult to be in such a state of mind of losing a loved one and still think of others.”
Both are going through the process that may allow them to learn who their donors were so they can thank the families personally.
“We are forever grateful to these families that donated,” said their father, Walter “Smitty” Marvin.
“These are people who unselfishly gave life to people they had never met. Most of us will never know the courage it took to donate life at the cost of one of their own.”
Brock and Connor both had familial dilated cardiomyopathy, a congenital condition that results in a greatly enlarged heart with an efficiency rate of less than 50 percent.
Brock was an eighth-grader when he collapsed while tossing a baseball to Connor on the lawn. His heart stopped altogether, and staff at Elizabethtown Community Hospital revived him.
He underwent a number of surgeries, including implantation of a defibrillator credited with jump-starting his heart several times. At Boston Children’s Hospital in 2010, he waited 11 days for the heart that now beats in his chest.
“I am thankful for everyone for being so supportive these past five years since I had my first heart attack and through the transplant and recovery,” he said.
“Everyone has been so great.”
Four months of hospitalization passed before Connor got his new heart.
Their dad calls the paths they followed “our desperate journey for health.”
“There are also so many people here that helped us,” Connor said. “George and Julie Huttig took care of me while Brock received his heart, when my family was in Boston.
“I am thankful for my parents and the community, as they were always there for me.”
It doesn’t escape the brothers’ understanding that they were born into the right era when, Connor said, “there is the amazing technology in which they can transplant a heart in only four hours.”
“I am thankful for both of my boys receiving their hearts and getting new leases on life,” their mother, Darlene Farrar Mitchell, said as Thanksgiving Day approached.
“I am also most thankful for my supportive husband, Dennis (Mitchell), who has helped all of us.
Mrs. Mitchell has also survived cardiac problems, as well as debilitating strokes.
“I am so thankful for being alive and being happy with my life.”
SO MUCH SUPPORT
Life has gradually grown closer to normal, Mr. Marvin said, but they do not forget the family members, friends, physicians and even strangers who helped support them in times of uncertainty.
“We witnessed so many people who showed concern for children they had never met,” he said. “There were people from the North Country and beyond. There are the families we became so close with at Children’s Hospital that will always be dear to our hearts, and of course, the most importantly of all, both donor families.
“We should be thankful for the giving in this world,” he added, “but should also be giving without expecting thanks.”
— News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.