From early childhood, Kevin Spencer was fascinated by planes, helicopters, and aircraft of all kind. Growing up near Hobby Airport and Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, Kevin was consumed by the idea of flying. However, a congenital heart condition would alter his course.
In 1960, esteemed cardiac surgeon Dr. Denton A. Cooley recognized Kevin suffered from transposition of the great arteries, a heart defect occurring at birth. Over the next 18 years, Kevin had five surgeries on his heart to properly oxygenate his lungs, but he eventually needed a heart transplant. In 1992, after going through extensive physical and psychological exams, Kevin became eligible for a heart transplant.
“Originally, I wasn’t too sure,” says Kevin, concerning the surgery. “The idea of someone’s heart replacing mine seemed wrong. I didn’t think it would work.”
Dr. O.H. “Bud” Frazier and his team could sense some extra encouragement would be helpful, so Kevin was put into contact with a recent transplant patient, Randy Creech, through the hospital’s Heart Exchange Support Group. Randy, who had only received his new heart a year prior, was just completing his daily five-mile bike ride.
“That sold me,” said Kevin, now confident this surgery was the right decision.
For fifteen years, Kevin’s new heart completely changed his life. “There were no limitations, anymore,” says Kevin, “I could do anything anybody else could do.” He met his wife, Kelly, had a beautiful baby girl, and went back to school for his aircraft mechanic license.
“I felt like I was living my dream,” recalls Kevin. Unfortunately, a slow progression of rejection was taking place in his body, and by 2011, Kevin would need a second heart transplant. Despite the fear of another surgery, Kevin felt relieved knowing his second transplant would be performed by Dr. Frazier, as Kevin had already experienced Dr. Frazier’s level of expertise firsthand.
Since then, Kevin’s heart has worked perfectly fine, but the physical toll over the years led to an early retirement. Now, he spends time offering the same encouragement Randy Creech provided him through the Heart Exchange Support Group. He hopes to be a living example of what the future can hold.
To those awaiting their own surgery, Kevin tells them, “I was there, I didn’t think I’d ever get out, but here I am.”
Though his medical record wouldn’t allow him to become a pilot, Kevin still managed to take flight with a few flying lessons. And over the years, all the runways and airshows inspired his daughter.
“She just received her private pilot license,” says Kevin. “So it all worked out, and I’ll be here to see it.”