Nearly 11 months after having life-saving heart and kidney transplant surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, 63-year-old Harold Baines, who is a Hall of famer, coach and ambassador for the White Sox organization is excited to be back in the mix of baseball.
Baines recently threw out the first pitch at the White Sox’s home opener at Guaranteed Rate Field. “I’m excited to get back after two years and not being there. Today, I just take it one day at a time,” Baines says.
“It’s a second chance,” his wife Marla shares. The couple have been married for 37 years and have four children and six grandchildren. “We would have taken an extra year or two. He’s back now almost like it never happened.”
On the field Baines was a strong defensive presence in the right field early in his career with the White Sox. He would later on become one of baseball’s premier designated hitters.
“There’s nothing worse than this”
Naturally, as an athlete, Baines was no stranger to surgeries. After 22 years of a professional baseball career, he’d had 10 knee surgeries and a right knee replacement. But even the amount of surgery Baines underwent couldn’t prepare him for the eight-hour procedure he would need after being diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy.
“There’s nothing worse than this,” Baines says. “You are relying on somebody passing before you can live.”
Four or five years ago, Baines found out he had the familial amyloidosis trait from his father, Linwood Jr. The condition, which led to his father’s death before his 78th birthday, is a hereditary condition that is more common in people of African descent.
The condition is a result of a genetic mutation that produces an amyloid protein that forms into an abnormal shape. Once deposited and clustered in the body’s nerves and other organs, amyloid protein builds up. This can affect and harm tissue and/or organ function, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Aside from fluid buildup in his legs, Baines wasn’t initially experiencing any symptoms. He underwent testing February 1, 2021. That same night he received a call from the hospital advising him to get to the hospital in two days because due to the restrictive cardiomyopathy his heart could not relax properly.
“He’s a great guy,” says Dr. Ahmet Kilic, Director of Heart Transplantation and Associate Professor of Surgery for Johns Hopkins University. “He just smiled and was upbeat the whole time. His family was really supportive of him, and he really didn’t complain much.”
Dr. Kilic’s team evaluates how to best get a patient’s heart to recover. In most cases, it begins with