Conroe heart transplant recipient runs marathon for herself, donor


by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 6:38 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 12 at 6:49 PM

CONROE, Texas -- Charlotte Judd from Conroe will lace up her running shoes and compete this weekend in an all-women’s road race in New York’s Central Park. But an unknown 21-year-old man will be running with her: a man to whom she owes her life.

When she was 3-months old she went into cardiac arrest. She was revived but diagnosed with a congenital heart muscle disease. With the cardiomyopathy managed with medication she was able to make it to her 21st birthday. But during her junior year in college her condition worsened and doctors told her the only hope was a heart transplant.

That transplant happened February 26, 2003. And the young woman who was never healthy enough to compete in high school or college sports had one question for her doctors – would she finally be able to run?

"I feel great when I run,” said Judd. “I plug in music...and just go."

Since the transplant Charlotte Judd, now 32, has competed in 30 road races and nearly a dozen of those have been half marathons. And recently she sent a letter to the Oakley corporation in a contest to compete in the Oakley New York all-women’s Mini 10K. She won. And this weekend she and her mom will be Oakley’s invited guests at the event in New York’s Central Park.

"I think it's really important. I'm really excited to do it,” she said.

Excited because when she runs she takes the message of organ donation with her hoping she can inspire donors and recipients alike.

"Maybe they think they couldn't run or they couldn't exercise and maybe that will give them some hope that they can get out there and do the same type of stuff that she's doing,” said her fiancé Trey Taylor. "She's probably one of the most amazing people I've ever met, as far as everything she's been through in her life.”

Charlotte says her doctors have told her that because of her exercise regimen and her healthy lifestyle that her heart is healthier today than it was the day of the transplant 11 years ago. But she is still hoping that one day she can find out more about the donor. She knows only that he was a 21-year-old athletic man.

"Oh, I constantly think about him whenever I run,” she said admitting that at miles 9 and 10 in a half marathon, when the going gets tough, she thinks about him the most. She runs for him and his family too.

"I feel like there's a big responsibility that comes with having a transplant. So it's a little me and a lot of him,” she said of the motivation to run.

In her letter to Oakley she wrote:

“I knew a long time ago that running is a privilege and it is with great honor that I lace up (weekly) and line up at the start line at least once a month for my donor family (whom I haven't met yet). My parents, family, friends, people who are waiting on a life-saving transplant, people who die before getting the life saving organ, and my doctors are who inspire my active lifestyle. I owe it to them.”

The Oakley New York Mini 10K is Saturday June 14. It is billed as the world’s original women-only road race that “empowers women of all ages and fitness levels to be active and to look and feel great on the run.”