Listen Live

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. —  A teenager from Noblesville is the youngest heart transplant recipient at St. Vincent Hospital.  

Will Chance, 16, found a perfect match donor in September and got the surgery.  

He had been diagnosed with an enlarged and failing heart in 2016.  

He went to the doctor a couple years ago with stomach pain. They did a scan and learned his heart had enlarged.  

“We don’t really know why,” St. Vincent Cardiac Surgeon Chris Salerno said. “Maybe a virus.”

Salerno said the situation was life-threatening. Doctors treated Will for several complications before installing a mechanical heart pump. 

“When he walked around, he had to carry batteries with him and a controller and he had a power cord coming through the skin,” Salerno said. 

The pump was designed to keep Will alive until he could get a heart transplant. 

St. Vincent called the Chances in September 2017 to tell them they had a heart for Will. 

Salerno performed the surgery a few days later, and on Thursday the Chance family celebrated its success. 

But presurgery, Will said he gave his family some words of encouragement:

“No matter where I wake up, it’s going to be a good place,” Will said. “If I were to wake up here in the hospital with a new heart, that would be good. Or if I wake up in heaven, that would be good, too.”

Will said he’s happy to lose what he calls “extra luggage.” He’s looking forward to this summer. 

“Getting to do stuff with my friends and being able to keep up with them more and be able to do certain things I wasn’t able to do before, like go swimming,” Will said. 

The Chance family said, when the time is right, they’ll reach out to the donor’s family to say thanks. 

“Because of them I’m here today able to live a normal teenager life,” Will said. 

Will takes medication daily to keep his body from rejecting the heart, but doctors said he is recovering well from surgery. 

He may need another transplant, as the average post-surgery survival length is about 15 years.

Chance is currently taking online classes through Noblesville High School, but hopes to return to the classroom ahead of graduation in 2020. 

Story by Tim McNicholas