All Heart

Published On 12/09/2015

Grizzlies player inspires heart patient

The doctor's warning rocked Angela and Steven McCarter's world. she told the athletic couple that their baby probably wouldn't be able to play sports. Matthew had three surgeries to repair his coarctation of the aorta before he was 3 months old.

"We were devastated," Angela said. "The movie I had in my mind was that he'd be able to do anything and everything he wanted to do. There would be no limitations. Then it hit me. He's going to have limitations in his life."

The news that their son may not have a normal childhood was hard to stomach for the McCarters. They had to adjust their expectations for their son who couldn't sustain a blow to the chest.

As 8-year- old Matthew, a sports fanatic, has grown, he has learned what sports he can play. Golf and tennis first, and now his heart has proven strong enough for baseball and basketball Matthew exceeded everyone's expectations on and off the court.

That progress makes his new-found friendship with another Memphis basketball player all the more meaningful.

Power forward Jeff Green joined the Memphis Grizzlies in January 2014, and one of his first orders of business was a visit to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. Green knows all too well what the kids in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care unit are experiencing.

Green sat out the 2011-2012 season with the Boston Celtics while he recovered from surgery on his aortic valve. At Le Bonheur, Je met Matthew. The pair compared scars. Later at FedexForum, Je told Matthew they were like the superhero ironman, who suffered a chest injury and now has protective padding around his heart.

"By Matthew seeing me play hard and have fun doing it, it can also inspire him to enjoy life and be happy," Jeff said. "And I know basketball isn't everything, but I appreciate it a little bit more [since the surgery]. You don't take it for granted."

Angela and Steven watched their son and the towering 6'9" basketball player talk to each other. They had renewed hope for their son.

"I can say Matthew, 'Look at Jeff. He had surgery on the same part of the heart that you had surgery on and look what he's doing today,'" Steven said.

Angela echoes, "From a heart mom, watching a heart patient play in the NBA, as well as Jeff plays in the NBA, it makes me rethink what Matthew is going to be able to do in his life. I don't know that he'll play in the NBA, but he won't be as limited as I thought he was going to be when he was 4 months old."