Beloved Hall of Famer Rod Carew received an outpouring of love and support across baseball on Friday after the 18-time All-Star underwent successful heart transplant surgery, the Twins and the American Heart Association announced.
Fellow Hall of Famers such as Johnny Bench, George Brett and Jim Palmer expressed well-wishes for Carew via Twitter, while Angels broadcaster Victor Rojas perfectly summed it up by tweeting that the seven-time hitting champion went "2-for-2" with his successful surgery and expected recovery.
Carew, who suffered his heart attack nearly 15 months ago near his home in Southern California, was in surgery for 13 hours. It began shortly after midnight PT at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He also received a new kidney, which is expected to help his chances of a full recovery.
"The entire Minnesota Twins family is happy to report that Rod Carew had a successful heart and kidney transplant surgery today at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and is expected to make a full recovery," the Twins said in a statement on Friday. "After a 13-hour procedure that started shortly after midnight Pacific time, Rod is resting in recovery. We ask that all of Twins Territory and the entire baseball community keep Rod, his wife Rhonda, and the entire Carew family in your thoughts and prayers as Rod recovers."
After a month-long wait on the transplant waiting list, Carew moved to the top of the list last Friday and was told on Wednesday night that a donor was located. Carew, 71, had been living with a left ventricular assist device surgically implanted since the attack. The device was successfully removed before the heart transplant surgery.
Wishing rod carew a speedy recovery can't wait to see that big smile again this July in Cooperstown
According to the American Heart Association, patients usually remain in the hospital two to three weeks after the operation and have three to six months of recovery. The overall survival rate is roughly 11 years, but goes up to 13 if a patient makes it past the first year.
Praying for @Twins great and all around fantastic person Rod Carew. Hoping his surgery goes well
"We are overwhelmed with emotions right now -- joy, relief, excitement and especially gratitude for all the doctors and nurses who have been with us at every step in this journey, and to the donor who made this possible," his wife, Rhonda, told American Heart Association News on Friday. "Rod knows he's been given another chance at life and we look forward to making the most of it."
Prayers to Rod Carew who is recovering from heart, kidney transplant. One of a kind! #positive vibes @masnOrioles
After undergoing surgery to receive his left ventricle device in November of last year, the 18-time All-Star spent his recovery time working to get healthy enough for a transplant, advocating for cardiovascular health and maintaining his advisory roles with the Twins and Angels.
Carew's No. 29 was retired by both clubs after a 19-year career in which he won seven American League batting titles, collected 3,053 hits and hit .328 with 353 stolen bases. Carew won the 1967 AL Rookie of the Year Award and the '77 AL MVP Award with the Twins. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, and he was healthy enough to attend induction weekend last July.
"The Minnesota Twins are ecstatic for Rod, Rhonda and the entire Carew family," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "We're very thankful for the dedicated men and women who've assisted the Carews every day through this journey. Collectively, their team inspires our team to continue helping others. We also thank Rod's fans across the globe for all the support they've sent his way. We all look forward to Rod continuing the healing process so we can see No. 29 back on the field in 2017."
Before the season, with the help of the Twins and the American Heart Association, the Heart of 29 Campaign was established to help raise awareness and funds to prevent heart attacks like the one Carew had while golfing on Sept. 20, 2015.
The Twins welcomed the Hall of Famer to Spring Training as a guest instructor in late February, surprising Carew with the entire organization wearing red Heart of 29 shirts upon his arrival. Minnesota continued to wear red jerseys with a special patch for Carew on Friday night home games throughout the year. Other clubs such as the Angels and Red Sox, as well as the Baseball Hall of Fame, also held events to raise awareness and money for the campaign.
"I do not think there are enough words to appropriately convey how happy all of us within the Angels family are for both Rod and Rhonda," Angels chairman Dennis Kuhl said. "Though this journey has been a difficult and challenging one for Rod, I continue to be impressed by the strength and optimism of the two of them."
Carew's message throughout the year was for people to get their hearts checked regularly because he believed he was completely healthy before suffering his massive heart attack, dubbed the "widow maker" because of the low survival rate associated with it. He even had 41 of his fellow Hall of Fame inductees have their hearts screened through the Heart of 29 while in Cooperstown for induction weekend in July.
Carew has been told by doctors his recovery will be less intensive than what he went through after undergoing a six-hour operation for his left ventricle assist device last year. Carew, however, was the fastest patient ever released from LVAD rehab at Scripps La Jolla hospital near San Diego at the time of his operation.