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Ben Thornton playing basketball

From heart transplant to wheelchair basketball, a patient’s story

Ben Thornton received a heart transplant when he was 3-years-old and later suffered a complication that left him struggling to walk. Now, he's thriving as a wheelchair basketball player.

Today, the future for 15-year-old Ben Thornton is bright. He's passionate about wheelchair basketball and, with a good academic record, he has hopes of pursuing the sport in college.

But at age 3 1/2, and even later, his outlook was much less rosy. He was suffering from restrictive cardiomyopathy, or a stiffening of his heart muscle. While in the hospital, his heart stopped and he was resuscitated -- following 60 minutes of heart compressions. A recent Healthier, Happy Lives post chronicles Thornton's heart transplant and subsequent complications, which left him struggling to walk.

The article highlights a Cal Hi Sports Bay Area video, which features footage of Thornton racing down the basketball court and introduces his father and his pediatric cardiologist, Daniel Bernstein, MD.

Thornton's discovery of wheelchair basketball played a key role in his current well-being, the article and video state:

'When I first started playing, it really gave me a boost of self-esteem,' Ben said. 'The people that are here really lifted me up. They are similar to me; they all have disabilities. They are my best friends, and I wouldn't replace them for anything.'

And Thornton has brought a smile to his doctor as well:

'I get a lot of joy from seeing Ben's success,' Dr. Bernstein said. 'In spite of his spinal injury, Ben is living every part of a normal child's life, and it doesn't seem to be slowing him down. He's really amazing.'

Photo by Stanford Athletics

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