It was 1986 and I was crouched around a little black-and-white television set in New York’s Grand Central Station watching the World Series with commuters, station employees and the homeless. I was on my way home from college classes that night and on my way to the train, I peeked in every store window looking for a television that had the game on. I listened on my FM radio as I walked and stopped to talk baseball with anyone who was wearing a Mets jersey. My teachers, avid Mets fans too, told me they’d give me the notes for the class if I would keep them posted on the game. Of course I did.
The Mets won of course and back then I knew all of the players names and stats. But if a player was traded or were done with their baseball career, I never knew what happened to them, unless stayed in the public eye as a coach, actor or broadcaster. As fans we often believe that retired ballplayers are living off their millions and living it up on a boat or in one of their many homes that have on every continent.
Ed Hearn, a catcher with the World Series Champion Mets that year was not doing any of those things. He was too busy fighting for his life.
After being traded to the Kansas City Royals the following year, Hearn’s career was over when he injured his shoulder. He didn’t have time to think about what he was going to do next. In 1990, during a routine medical checkup, he was diagnosed with a condition called focal segmental glomeruloscerosis. In plain English, his kidneys were failing and he was going to need a transplant. He’s since had three. That wasn’t all -- he was also diagnosed with skin cancer and sleep apnea, the same condition that took former NFL superstar Reggie White’s life. He lives with a breathing machine.
I talked to Ed and he’s inspiring, motivational and, above all, positive."I was blessed with enough ability to play. I didn’t have time to know what normal was after leaving baseball. I went from being a ballplayer to having tough days."
Why do you think this happened to you?
I am a person of faith and I believe God puts on a path. He put me on a path that in the last 15 years I touched more lives through the challenging times that I went through than if I had played ten years in the big leagues. Money and fame and celebrity changes everyone, but it’s usually not for the good. Some people can right a check, but I have a gift that’s more valuable than a check. The circumstances I’m in has given me a perspective on life so different than what we see in today’s athletes and celebrities.
Ed undergoes $3,000 worth of IV treatment each month, and $40,000 in medication per year. He takes up to 50 pills a day.
Some athletes don’t reap the financial rewards of getting to the top and that’s the missing part for me. People think that athletes were guaranteed multi-year contracts and millions, but that wasn’t the case for me. I’m rich in a lot of ways though. I met my wife, Trisha, who was a nurse when I got sick. She’s a special person to help me through all this stuff.
Hearn suffered from depression at one time too and even contemplated suicide after his first transplant. How do you handle the bad days?
Reality really is my best medicine. Even when I’m status quo or not having any complications, I go into the folders stuffed with personal letters of the impact that I or the book, Conquering Life’s Curves, has on someone’s life. It takes the focus off how I’m feeling.
Today, Ed works for NephCure Foundation and travels across the country to hospitals and dialysis centers to talk to patients. He participates in fundraisers and has a son Cody.
Why tell your story?
You never know the people who are watching. One lady wrote me and we talked by phone about her condition and she had planned to end her life that next day but didn’t. It’s all about how you react to situations. I never sleep without a breathing machine, but I have a deep appreciate for people who are struggling. They’ve seen me life through those things.
When I have opportunities to make an impact, I feel better mentally and spiritually. Physically I’m not the guy I used to be. Thank God, because now I’m better. Not that I was a bad guy (laughs). I’ve been known for some of the antics, but that’s what happens with success. Trials build character and I’ve had one heck of a trial.
Thanks for stopping by Ed. You ARE truly an inspiration and a champion on so many levels.