All heart: Shae Veach’s miraculous journey from heart transplant patient to the gridiron

Perry High School football player Shae Veach, who had a heart transplant two years ago, practices before Friday’s first home game of the season. (Photo by Rudy Aguado/Cronkite News)

Shae Veach continues to serve as an inspiration for his team and the community. His resolve will be on display Friday at Perry High School’s first home game of the season. (Photo by Rudy Aguado/Cronkite News)

Shae Veach dedicates this season to proving the doubters wrong after making the Perry High School football team as a receiver. (Photo by Rudy Aguado/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Two weeks ago, Perry high school football player Shae Veach stepped onto the field for the first time.

Two years ago, Veach was laying in a hospital bed awaiting the news that he would be getting a new heart.

“It’s a miracle that he’s actually out there running around,” said Shannon Veach, Shae’s mom.

Veach was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which affects the left ventricle’s function. Immediately after Veach was born, he underwent multiple heart surgeries. He kept having these surgeries until he was 5.

Growing up with HLHS, Veach’s physical activity was extremely limited. He played flag football and wrestled with his four older brothers, but his heart condition limited his chance of playing organized physical sports.

His family never treated him differently and always encouraged him to reach his goals. One of those was to play football for Perry, where he watched his brother play when he was little.

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“We were in the stands watching and I always told my mom, ‘I’m gonna play here one day,’” Veach said. “And obviously she didn’t think I could because at the time, we didn’t think I’d have a new heart. She’d say, ‘Yeah you can do it.’ My parents never said I couldn’t do this because my heart always pushed me just as much as my older brothers.”

In August 2019, his heart started to fail. At just 14, Veach entered the transplant list and waited for a new heart.

During this time, the Veach family continued to keep their faith and rally around Shae.

“Our faith really has been instrumental in just helping us now that God has taken Shae through this and blessed him and continues to do that,” Shannon said.

A few weeks after the teenager went on the list, Veach and his family got the news that he would be getting a new heart. Typically the recovery from a heart transplant means a year in the hospital, according to Veach’s doctors.

Not for Veach.

“I was there for like a month. And after the transplant, I tied the record of getting out of the hospital,” Veach said.

Despite his rapid recovery, Veach still had to rest and take it slow at home for five months after the surgery. Fast forward two years from his surgery and Veach is now living out his dream of playing football. He made Perry’s varsity team despite never having played organized ball.

“It’s my first year in football, and I made varsity as a receiver. My coach just pushed me to realize my work,” said Veach, a junior. “And sometimes I take breaks. I try not to, because I just don’t like to, but I push myself here at practice, try to participate in everything.”

Veach works every single day on the field, making the best out of it, knowing that two years ago he was in a hospital bed.

To his teammates and coaches, Veach is an inspiration and an encouragement.

“It’s very exciting. It’s very encouraging. It’s very powerful,” said Perry coach Joseph Ortiz. “To see someone that’s gone through what he’s gone through, and he’s been here every day, going through everything that everyone else has gone through at practice and all the conditioning and all the reps, it’s just cool to see.”

Veach has been defeating all odds since the day he was born, and he only plans on continuing that streak.

“I’ve always pushed myself and feel like now with my new heart, our saying here (Perry) is to prove them wrong,” Veach said. “ I feel like that really goes to me because I’ve been doubted my whole life. Like I’m the smallest on the team and I’m still working on getting bigger, but I’ll work my butt off out here and just try to prove them wrong.”

Perry continues its season Friday night against Corona del Sol, at home for the first time this year. And for the first time, Veach will get to play in front of his community and his whole family, defeating all odds yet again.

Madison Thacker mad-uh-sun thack-er (she/her/hers)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Madison Thacker expects to graduate in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Thacker has interned as a reporter with The Arizona Republic.

Rudy Aguado(he/him/his)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Rudy Aguado expects to graduate in December 2022 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Aguado is interning with the Arizona Interscholastic Association and has collaborated with AZPreps365.