A former Jacksonville resident and heart transplant recipient was offered another rare opportunity last week, this time on the golf course.
Clay Yates, 34, of Springfield took the ceremonial first shot at the Memorial Health Championship last Thursday morning. Yates underwent heart transplant surgery in August 2019 after being diagnosed with heart failure.
Yates underwent a CT scan at Springfield Memorial Hospital after suffering from continuous shortness of breath. Analysis showed he had an enlarged heart and his lungs were taking in fluid. He was quickly transferred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
He was placed on the transplant list on August 26e of 2019, and due to his serious condition was near the top of the list and underwent the 10am procedure four days later to receive a new heart.
A golfer since age 6, Yates is a JHS graduate and former winner of the Jacksonville City Tournament who also played in college. Now a partner in The Real Estate Group, Yates resides in Springfield with his wife and children. He says he was honored to fire the first ceremonial shot of the tournament.
“When they asked me if I was going to hit the ceremonial tee shot, of course I agreed and was ready to do whatever I could to help them, but also to raise awareness about organ donation. in general.
Yates received the heart of Taylor Ware of Kansas City, who died aged just 24. Ware was an air traffic controller in the US Marines when he died.
Yates says that, like many heart-receivers, he has become connected with Taylor Ware’s family and talks to Taylor’s father at least once a week. He says that in August he is planning a trip to Kansas City to attend a Chiefs NFL preseason game with members of Taylor’s family because Taylor was a huge Chiefs fan.
Yates is now an ambassador for the Heart Transplant Association of St. Louis, which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide emotional, educational, and psychological support to pre- and post-heart transplant patients and their families.
He says that after being visited by one of the ambassadors of the Heart Transplant Association, the boost he received was such that he decided his goal was to be cured and become one himself.
“He is still one of my close friends to this day. His name is Anthony and he is president of the Heart Transplant Association of St. Louis. It’s like I told him, the day he walked through that door on his own two feet, it was so helpful for me to get a glimpse of life after a transplant.
Because when you’re dying in cardiac ICU, it’s hard to imagine getting out of the hospital and back to some kind of normalcy. So for him to come in there, to take the time to meet me in the lowest times of our lives. It meant the world to me and had a huge positive impact. Because, you know, he was still living, he was still working, he was still prospering.
Yates continues to work wherever and however he can to help spread awareness about organ donation and says he hopes to get more locally involved with the donation of hope soon.
Yates says it’s funny how life works sometimes. Later this summer, he will travel to California to play golf in the Transplant Games of America, an Olympic-style competition for organ transplant recipients. The match will be played at Miramar Memorial Golf Course, located on the Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego. Which is the base where Taylor Ware was stationed and worked as an air traffic controller.
Yates says he will share this with Taylor’s family, and one of Taylor’s aunts still lives in the area and will be on the court to watch him play.
Learn more or donate to the Heart Transplant Association
of Saint-Louis, go to www.hta-stl.org