Former Basketball Coach Credits BIDMC for Saving His Life
FEBRUARY 05, 2020
After 31 years of coaching high school basketball in Brockton—with 24 of those seasons as head coach—it was finally time for Victor Ortiz to hang up the towel. Already retired from his role as a school adjustment counselor, he planned to spend his later years volunteering and traveling with his wife, JoAnn.
In the first few months of retirement, he recalls some uncomfortable health symptoms. “I had some belly inflammation and was bruising easily. I was a little more tired than usual,” he says.
After a few doctors’ appointments and a second opinion with BIDMC’s Michael Curry, MD, Section Chief of Hepatology and Medical Director of Liver Transplantation, Ortiz was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.
“Victor’s liver disease was so severe that it caused chronic irreversible kidney disease,” Curry explains. “He was facing liver and kidney failure and needed a double organ transplant.”
“I continued to deteriorate quickly,” Ortiz says. “So I made peace with myself. I had just turned 60 and had lived a good life.”
While hospitalized, Ortiz was also diagnosed with moderate to severe aortic stenosis, a heart condition that nearly sidelined his candidacy for organ transplant. But after discussing treatment options with Ortiz’s cardiologist James Chang, MD, the transplant team made the decision to move forward.
“A lot of testing and collaboration among my team reassured me that my heart could handle the surgery,” Ortiz explains. “This hospital is amazing. They truly saved my life.”
Curry explains how each patient’s care is tailored to personalized needs. “We have an exceptional team that is dedicated to providing the most advanced treatment possible,” he says. “It’s important to us that you, as the patient, are involved in every step throughout the transplant process.”
A month after surgery, the all-star basketball coach found out he was being inducted into the Brockton High Athletic Hall of Fame. “I was slowly gaining my strength back and was determined to be at the induction ceremony. I wanted to see the students and people who have always supported me because five weeks prior, I wasn’t sure I would ever see them again,” he says.
Ortiz was later inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame as well as the Massachusetts Coaches Hall of Fame. It’s clear that for the city of Brockton, basketball and Ortiz go hand-in-hand: which is why last month, the high school basketball court was dedicated in his honor.
“It was incredible,” he says, of the dedication ceremony. “A lot of players and parents who I haven’t seen in years were there. My brother from Puerto Rico flew in. I never expected such a fuss, but I really appreciate it.”
During his ceremonial speech, Ortiz gave a special shout out to his BIDMC team. “The doctors and nurses at BIDMC have saved my life on more than one occasion. I wouldn’t be here today without them,” he says.
Ortiz likes to spend his free time volunteering at the school and helping bilingual students, as much as his immune system will allow. “When someone gives you a second chance like this, you don’t waste it.”
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