Wyche’s transplant story set to be broadcast on NBC Christmas Day

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — In his time as both a player and a coach, Sam Wyche has seen plenty of football games come down to the wire.

This year, his own life was saved as the final seconds ticked down — and the story of that miraculous save will be told on national television on Christmas Day.

The story of Wyche’s miraculous heart transplant will be told during a pregame show during the NFL game broadcasts on Christmas Day.

Wyche’s story will be told during the pre-game show before the second game of the NBC broadcast.

That pre-game show will probably begin sometime between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., Wyche believes.

“Check your local listings, as they say,” he said.

12-21 Page 1A.inddWyche, a Pickens resident and former county councilman, has suffered from a heart disease, cardiomyopathy, for decades.

“That’s beating the odds big-time,” he said. “Most people with it don’t live that long.”

During a visit to Chris Smith with Upstate Cardiology, Wyche said Smith realized “I had a serious problem.”

That led to a trip to the doctors at St. Francis, who sent Wyche on to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. There, a waiting game began, to see if a heart could be found that would get Wyche off the sidelines.

Donor hearts need to be about the same size as the patient’s original heart. The donor and patient must also have the same blood type.

On Monday, Sept. 12, Wyche’s doctors had a very difficult conversation with Wyche and his family.

“They said, ‘Sam, time is up,’” Wyche recalled.

His heart was giving out. The conversation shifted to making Sam comfortable — the doctors said he only had days left.

Then, a miracle.

“They said, ‘Good news, we have a heart that looks like it’s a perfect fit for you,” Wyche said. “Somehow I stayed alive long enough for them to get that heart in me.”

The transplant began at 2:30 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 13, and was all over at 6:30 a.m.

“The flipside of it is that I got a second chance at life,” Wyche said. “There is family, friends, loved ones grieving a death.”

He said he has a message ready for the donor’s family if they are ever ready to meet with him.

Sam doesn’t know much about his donor yet, but he’s grateful that the person made the choice to be an organ and tissue donor.

His new lease on life has given him a new mission: Encouraging everyone to become organ and tissue donors.

“You can harvest a lot of things to help somebody,” he said. “Hearts, kidneys — kidneys are the most common — corneas, ligaments, the pancreas, skin.”

There are 119,000 people currently waiting on a lifesaving organ. 22 people die every day waiting for one.

He encourages those interested in being donors to sign up and to let their family know their wishes ahead of time.

You can register online by visiting

You can register to be an organ and tissue donor by going to the Department of Motor Vehicles. An emblem will then be placed on your driver’s license. That emblem lets first responders know that you wish to have organs or tissues donated in the event of your death

Wyche is working with Rep. Davey Hiott and the legislature to have that emblem available to be placed on Concealed Weapons Permits as well, giving responders another place to look for the information.

He looks forward to telling his story — and delivering his message to a large audience on Christmas Day.

“Sam is here today, because somebody had the foresight to be a donor,” Wyche said.

Peter King, lead sportswriter for Sports Illustrated, will be helping Sam tell his story. King and a crew came down to film with Wyche, riding the Doodle Trail with him — something he does regularly as part of his rehabilitation.

Wyche said he knew King from his NFL days, when King was a rookie sportswriter.

“I’d give him some scoops every now and then,” Wyche said.

After the pregame show, Wyche said he believes Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels will be calling the game. He has a close connection to Collinsworth as well.

“I coached Cris for eight years,” Wyche said. “We were in Superbowl XXIII together. I believe he’s the best broadcaster on television today.”