North Texas Daily

Speedy transplant saves student’s life

Speedy transplant saves student’s life

Photo courtesy of Levi Shultz

Speedy transplant saves student’s life
June 03
14:03 2013

Renee Hansen / Senior Staff Writer

He walks in to the packed Calvary Chapel Denton theater straight to the front row, finding his place of honor next to his family. A white hospital mask covers half of his face, but his eyes reflect the bright, familiar smile that lies behind it.

He has always had a love for people and a big heart, but tonight it felt a little different because he was learning to live with a new one.

Friends, family and people of Denton came out on May 25 to the 5 Dragon Daughter benefit show for Levi Shultz, a 23-year-old English senior and bassist for local band Across Waters, who underwent a heart transplant in April

Proceeds from the performance, including those from an art gallery in the lobby, went toward Shultz’s medical bills, a generous act that reflects the growing love and support from the community.

Friends in both Denton and Austin put on a 5k run for Shultz in March, but the outpouring didn’t stop there. Simpler acts of support have been evident through the praying online community, letters of encouragement and even gifts, such as the Sony PSP that two of his band mates, Tyler Burditt and Leighton Pustejovsky, loaded with games for Shultz to play while he recovered in the hospital.

Annette Shultz, his mother, dabbed at her eyes as she reflected on the events of just the past few months.

“There’s been tons of support, in all different ways,” she said.

Born with neuroblastoma, Shultz endured chemotheraphy that eventually led to complications with his heart, according to his mother. At 17, he received a defibrillator and doctors predicted a necessary heart transplant in the future. It wasn’t until late March of this year, when Shultz was admitted into ICU after medicine made it difficult for his own heart to pump out fluid, that he was put on the list for a new heart.

Two weeks later on April 11, an unusually quick turnaround, Shultz got word that he was getting a new heart and went into surgery.

“There’s not a lot of time to think,” he said. “It was a really crazy day.”

Crazy, and fast. The doctors even performed the surgery in record time, Shultz’s mother said. A process that should have taken 6 to 8 hours was completed in 2 hours and 25 minutes.

The quickness has been mirrored throughout Shultz’s recovery as well. For one, he was “oddly chipper” following the intense operation, Pustejovsky recounted.

Additionally, Shultz’s feeding tube came out after only 30 minutes following the surgery, he’s been released to drive and he already achieved a personal goal of walking a two-mile route around his house, something that was set for the end of the summer, according to his mother.

But one thing Shultz is itching to get back to is his band. Due to the recovery process, he’s been living temporarily in Fort Worth with his family, making it difficult to even see his three band mates.

“The best way to say it is I haven’t been able to see my brother in a long time,” Burditt said. “I miss him dearly.”

Mutual feelings from the rest of the band have spurred the group to make plans for a future four-song EP that will imitate a letter to Shultz, showing how much they love him.

Burditt also explained that up until the last song, there would not be a bass part in honor of Shultz and to show that nothing “could take away that you’re a part of us.”

Shultz continues to recover, attending weekly rehabilitation appointments at UT Southwestern hospital in Dallas, and remains in high spirits.

Sterling Archer, friend and guitarist of Across Waters, described Shultz’s personality: “One of the reasons why I think people are so drawn to Levi is that the dude is just joy-filled.”

Shultz will be the first to tell you that it’s because of his faith in Jesus.

“It’s great I got a new heart, but even this one’s going to go away,” he said. “If anything, I would want people to focus more on ‘look how great God is’ rather than ‘look how great a heart transplant is.’”

Shultz plans to return to school in the fall and is currently looking at apartments. He said he’s excited for the future and his new lease on life.

“I just want to be independent again,” he said.

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