Columbus man who beat leukemia gets third chance at life with heart transplant

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Tyler Cummins was forced to fight for life almost from the start.

Diagnosed with Leukemia at 16 months old, it would take more than a year of treatment to bring him into remission.

"We thought we'd won the lottery," said Tyler's father, Jim Cummins. "The next 20 years, he just kind of grew up as a regular kid. Never thought anything about it. it just became history."

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Five years ago, his parents had to relive that painful history.

"Then we get this phone call from (his partner) Adam one night that said Tyler had a heart attack. All of the sudden, the world flipped over again."

The drugs that had saved Tyler as a baby had damaged his heart.

In January, Tyler shared his story with 10TV.

"The reality is, I need a heart. I am 31, going on 32, and my journey could end before my choosing I suppose," he said. "I feel a little helpless, and at times, I feel a little discouraged."

Tyler was already listed on the transplant list at the Cleveland Clinic.

Last Monday, he got listed at OSU Wexner Medical Center and so much more.

"We listed him for transplant at about 11 o'clock in the morning. And we got an organ offer for him at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon," said Dr. Nahush Mokadam, a cardiac surgeon at OSU Wexner Medical Center. "That's pretty incredible."

Tyler was on the bus heading home from work when he got the call.

"There was a heart waiting for me, and it was a match," he said.

Within just a few hours, he was wheeled into surgery.

"When I came to, it was the overwhelming feeling of a heart beating in my body, which is not unusual for anyone else, but for me, it was a different experience and it just felt strong," he said.

He says it was immediate and noticeable. His mother, Christie Cummins, noticed something else.

"He's pink again — he has color! He got the miracle. We got the miracle," she said.

They are keenly aware that their gift came at a cost to someone else.

"To say I'm forever grateful is an understatement. And I feel like I have a responsibility now to live out a life that would honor the donor and their family," Tyler said.

"I'm sorry for their loss because we thought that would be us, losing somebody that you love," Christie said. "So, I'm sorry that you had to lose and I'm so grateful that you chose to give that gift to somebody else. I am so grateful."

Doctors were preparing Tyler to go home on Wednesday.

They say they don't have nearly enough donors to meet the needs of patients in need of a transplant.

Lifeline of Ohio says there are 113,696 people nationwide waiting for one. In Ohio alone, there are approximately 3,000 people waiting.

To register as an organ, eye or tissue donor, click here.