Denzel Irvin, 26, fell ill almost three weeks ago, unaware of his diagnosis and unprepared for what was to come. He soon learned his heart was failing when he arrived at the CMC-Main Atrium and since Monday he has officially been on a waiting list for a new heart.
Irvin, an assistant football coach at Butler High School, said he was rushed to hospital on March 29 after battling COVID-like symptoms. He was in the middle of a training session when he started feeling ill and asked to be taken to hospital, later to find his heart was functioning at just 10%. Since the start of medical treatment, he suffered a stroke.
“You have to go through something to get to something,” Irvin told The Charlotte Observer as machines hummed in the back of his hospital room. “I don’t believe God would take me this far just to take me this far. Since I’ve been here I’ve had a stroke and he (God) got me out of it without a scar. With everything I’m going through, I think I’m doing better.
There has been an outpouring of love from the Charlotte community for Irvin, with nearly 700 donors contributing nearly $50,000 to cover medical costs through a GoFundMe page on his journey to a new heart.
Irvin is a graduate of UNC Charlotte and a former defensive back for the 49ers. Over the past year, he has started building his brand, Get Active Performance Training, where he trains kids and adults ages 7+ on speed, agility, change of direction, and strength training.
Former Mallard Creek and current University of Pennsylvania defensive back Kendren Smith has trained with Irvin since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and says he had a profound impact on his life .
“He’s a man of faith first and foremost, and that really shows in his fight right now,” Smith said. “In recent years, he has really found his purpose. He always trained and coached, but when he broke up and started building his business, he became the person he wanted to have. It’s just giving back, that’s all he wants to do.
Performance coaching is Irvin’s passion, and he plans to work tirelessly to return to the field where he impacted youth and young adults.
“You never know the impact you can have on someone,” Irvin said. “I coach kids from seven years old, and you never know the impact. Some of the things these kids said to me, I didn’t even know I had that much impact on them. You have to be aware of the things you do and how you do them, because it could change someone’s life”.
His impact goes beyond football, and those close to him have been adamant in spreading the word and doing anything to help.
“The fact that he can wake up and smile every day is amazing in itself. He’s a true warrior,” former Irvin teammate Tyriq Harris said. “He works hard every day to support himself not only to his needs but also to those of his family.He is such a good man.
“He helped so many of his clients believe in themselves,” added former teammate Hasaan Klugh. “He really can’t wait until he’s back to do what he loves to do. We’re just keeping the faith right now, that’s all we can do.
Irvin worked with a financial advisor to manage the costs of the transplant, the hospital stay and a lifetime of medication. The waiting list for the transplant could be long, potentially months or years. According to the Twenty-fourth Official Heart Transplant Report, there are more than 5000 heart transplants worldwide every year. Nearly 50,000 people are candidates for transplantation.
For Irvin, the road to a new heart is not linear. But his faith and the support of his loved ones and the Charlotte community continue to nurture him.
“I believe it had to happen for a reason. There must be something bigger on the other side.
This story was originally published April 21, 2022 06:00.