If you happen to be riding along the Delaware Canal near Yardley or the back roads of Bucks County, you might pass a cyclist named Bill. He's a regular there. And, unless you look closely at his special ordered, anatomically correct heart cycling jersey, you likely won't notice anything different about him. But Bill's story is truly inspirational and certainly worth telling.
You see, Bill Soloway is training for something special. On June 10th, he will travel to Cleveland, Ohio, to participate in the Transplant Games of America as a part of Team Philadelphia. Just 11 months ago, Bill was in the operating room at The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania receiving a new heart.
Where the journey begins
It all started 20 years ago when he collapsed in the Orlando Airport on the way home from a vacation with his family. Bill was a young, healthy father of one which made his condition puzzling. That is until he told the doctor that his brother, who had been diagnosed with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, had died at age 27.
A red flag went up. Bill was diagnosed with a variation of this condition called familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an inherited condition where the cells in the heart muscle become enlarged, changing the structure and function of the heart. Bill's heart was slowly failing him, but he found his way to Penn Medicine, where he has been on this journey ever since.
You could say that Bill has been through it all when it comes to heart conditions and procedures: ventricular tachycardia, later a long stint with atrial fibrillation, all leading to heart failure and finally a heart transplant. And through it all, Bill's determination to live a full, meaningful life, shone through.
"I was determined to not be a number or just another patient. The clinicians and everyone surrounding me during this time were a part of my family. This was a part of my life - a part of my story."
Culmination of it all: The Transplant Games
Bill Soloway and Janet Dennis
During a hospital stay, a woman named Janet Dennis came into Bill's room and showed him an album filled with pictures from past Transplant Games. At the time, Bill brushed it off, thinking "Why am I even seeing this? It doesn't have anything to do with me." Three years later, the night after his transplant surgery, as Bill was restless in his hospital bed, that memory came back to him. Bill was ready. The next morning, he called his fiancee Kathy and said, "I'm doing this. Next year, I will be in the Transplant Games."
Ten weeks after his transplant, Bill was back on his bike. Every morning, he was off the couch and out of bed. Bill's determination to participate in the Games was just the motivation he needed to get back into cycling and back on his feet.
This year, Bill will compete in both the 5K and 20K rides, and he is ready. Not only for the physical challenge, but also for the emotional journey that the Transplant Games entails. Bill received the Gift of Life. And there isn't anyone more honored, with a stronger desire to give back to the community.
"You have one life to live and eight lives to give. Become an organ donor. My life depended on it!" - Bill Soloway
Bill's Inherited Heart Disease
Bill's Heart Failure Story