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Simsbury teen throws his heart and soul onto the football field

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SIMSBURY - A Simsbury High School senior’s love for football has him taking someone else's heart on the field, bursting with joy to be alive.

Danny Deitz has been given a new heart and a new chance at life after the wide receiver was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy in early 2015, as well as an enlarged heart.

“I was playing lacrosse at the time and I started getting loss of breath and I lost 20 pounds of muscle weight,” he said. “It was scary and it really opens your eyes to a lot of things.”

He was taken to Boston Children’s Hospital where doctors told family he was lucky to be alive.

“It’s the scariest thing in the world,” his father Terry Deitz said. “It’s an education I wouldn't have wished on anyone.”

Danny was using a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) to help pump blood to and from the heart, but was told he would need a heart transplant, and would possibly never play lacrosse and football again.

“It’s kind of a weird thing because you don't want someone to pass away to get your son a heart, but in the meantime, your son needs that heart,” Terry said. “You pray for him to get a heart and hopefully somebody has checked the block to become an organ donor and he or she becomes the person that gives your son renewed life.”

On Sept. 11, 2015 Danny got one step closer to renewed life because Boston Children’s Hospital reached out to him saying they had a transplant for him.

A year after the surgery, the beginning of his senior year, he heard the words he never thought he would: that he could play sports again.

“By the time the season started coming around my doctor saw that I was physically capable and my chest and my heart were very healthy, and I had no limitations that would necessarily make me not able to play,” Danny said.

His father explained that even though he has a new heart, it works differently than a normal one and his heart rate can take a bit longer to rise than normal, but it also stays at a high point for longer than the average person.

While playing he wears protective gear to cover his sternum.

Seeing Danny light up as he plays football again is something his father said has inspired the whole town.

“One of the things Danny has given us and I think the rest of the town is just like strength, strength to carry on,” Terry said. “To realize that you know what life can be taken away from you really quickly, so enjoy life, work hard, things get you down come back and be the best person you can.”

Danny’s new heart is full of happiness being able to play again and a new outlook on life.

“Don't waste a second,” he said. “Just enjoy every moment.”

The family has created The Danny Strong Fund, to support the priorities of the Boston Children’s Hospital Heart Center and help with research for congenital heart diseases. You can donate to the cause by buying a Danny Strong T-Shirt.

When Danny’s father first learned of his condition he was a contestant on the show "Survivor," which he left to take care of his son.