At 41, he is an elite athlete. But at 31, Derek Fitzgerald was in much worse shape.
Ten years ago, he had a grapefruit size tumor removed from his stomach. When he woke-up from surgery doctors told Derek he had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Chemotherapy saved his life but damaged his heart; he would need a new one to live.
Thanks to an anonymous donor who had been on life support, Derek got that heart and a second chance at life on January 3, 2011.
"This isn't my heart. This is a borrowed heart and I'm just a custodian and I do my best to take care of this person's heart," he told FOX 29.
Derek felt stronger immediately and gave his new heart a test run and he kept running and running.
Just seven months after his replacement surgery, Derek ran the Philadelphia Marathon. Then he took his new heart to an entirely different level completing his first Iron Man Competition in 2012.
“I didn't survive this to sit here on the sofa. I have to do something to honor this person that gave me life," he said.
Derek wrote a letter to the donor's family to thank them but never heard back. He respects their privacy and will forever honor their decision to donate his organs.
"This person who I'll never know, who I can never thank, chose the last day of their life to save the life of a complete stranger and for me that speaks to the level of generosity and integrity that I think is powerful," he said.
Just like Derek's new heart and new will to thrive.