After being diagonosed with dilated cardio myopathy and congestive heart heart failure, it would be the last game of his career.
One week prior to that game, Murphey became ill and spent the night at the hospital.
He was sent home with asthma medicine, but with no clear diagnosis.
“It was on my mom’s birthday in May,” Coy said. “I could feel my heart racing and I was out of breath all day. That’s when it all hit the fan. I felt terrible all day, but I didn’t want to ruin mom’s birthday so I waited until midnight to tell her.”
Coy played in the game, and even returned after collapsing.
After a trip to the hospital, Murphey made the painful decision to leave lacrosse. His plans to attend Virginia Military Institute were out of the door and his next option was the University of Kentucky.
He spent more than a year at UK without complications until he started feeling sick again. He received the news that would change his life forever.
“In February, I was told I needed a heart transplant,” Murphey said. “I was given six months to live at best. I didn’t want to hear that. As tired as I was and as tired as my body was I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew it was true. In a way it was a bit of relief. It confirmed my thinking. The hardest part of the whole ordeal was not knowing.”
In March 2009, Coy passed out in class. He regained consciousness and raised his hand.
“Professor, I think something is wrong,” Coy said.
He was rushed to the hospital. Murphey said he was a frequent flyer at that time and his appearance was no surprise to anyone.
“My cardiologist came down and said, ‘This is it, things have gotten worse and we have to do it,”’ Coy said. “I filed my paperwork and was given the highest priority for an organ.”
Within 24 hours, there were two hearts that matched Murphey’s need. Doctors chose to pass on the first with hopes of finding something better. Four hours later their hopes would be fulfilled.
“Around 5 p.m., my extended family members started showing up so I knew that something was going on,” Coy said. “My doctor came to my bedside and said that he found one and they were going to get it.”
Despite the grave uncertainty ahead of him, Murphey handled his emotions with humor.
“I am not a very serious person; I’d much rather laugh so I tried to keep the mood light,” Coy said. “The surgeon showed me his plan of action on my dinner with a butter knife and he showed my family the anesthesia process by putting a pillow to my face.”
Ed Coy, Murphey’s father, said his son’s demeanor throughout the ordeal was one to be noted.
“In the almost two years from his diagnosis to the surgery, I never heard him once say ‘Why me; my life is over’ or complain one time,” Ed said. “When they wheeled him away into the surgery room, he looked at me and said he was so thankful for the donor family.”
At approximately 9 p.m., he was wheeled into surgery while his family waited in the designated waiting room. Their only contact with the surgery room was a phone call with updates.
“Around 10:30 p.m. we got a phone call letting us know that our son’s heart was out of his chest,” Ed said. “My son lay in that room without a heart, that was the most sinking feeling that I have ever experienced. At that moment I realized the gravity of the situation, even though I knew that this would be a step in the process.”
As the next day began, so did a new chapter in Murphey’s life.
“I remember waking up and feeling, warm,” Murphey said. “My toes were warm, my fingers were warm and my skin had color. You would be amazed how cold you are when you have a bad heart. I have been trying to put my feelings that day into words for the past three years–I can’t do it. It was awesome and amazing.”
Three days later, the medical staff had Murphey on his feet. Eight days later, he returned home.
Within a day of returning home, he was contacted by the American Heart Association asking for his participation in their Heart Walk, a three mile charity event to raise money and awareness for cardiovascular disease.
Murphey accepted the opportunity and had 40 days to raise money and prepare for the event.
He accepted with the support of his surgeon, Dr. Mark Bonnell.
“By the time of the walk I had raised $14,000,” Murphey said. “My fraternity, family and friends all showed up. Dr. Bonnell and I led the walk. It was a pretty amazing day.”
Several months after the walk, Murphey was contacted by Betty and Dwight Bowers, his heart donor’s family.
“That was a real emotional experience,” Murphey said. “I didn’t know what to feel, at first it was guilt, but I realized that someone willingly donated an organ that they didn’t need to save a random person’s life. That’s pretty special. I am still close with them.”
Ed said donor Jared Bowers lives through Murphey and that gives Dwight and Betty comfort.
“On Mother’s Day weekend of this year, the Bowers family came and stayed with us for a couple of days, just to visit,” Ed said.
“We stay very close. Murphey called to wish his step mother and Betty a happy Mother’s Day. She couldn’t have been happier.”
In the three years since the surgery, Murphey has made a full recovery and continued his life with a renewed outlook.
“I have felt fine,” Murphey said. “I am clear to exercise. I work out, play basketball and pick up lacrosse games when I can. I use my new heart as a force of motivation. Whenever I get down, I get back up with my heart in mind.”
Murphey’s girlfriend, Christina Armstrong, said she also has seen how the surgery and recovery process has strengthened Murphey.
“He tries to live life to the fullest these days,” Armstrong said. “He lives as normally as possible and perseveres through everything like it is his last day. I think the surgery as a whole really showed his resiliency on life and it shows.”
Murphey said he has no plans to return to competitive lacrosse, but hopes to one day coach.
He is still involved with the American Heart Association as well as Donate Life, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to promoting organ, tissue and eye donation.
To learn more and become involved with organ donation, visit Donatelife.net.