David Rasmussen almost died several years ago, a story his fellow gym users know well. With a cheerful, open attitude, David is more than happy to tell anyone about this experience, as well as how he was saved by doctors, who gave him a second heart – and a new chance at life.

After the transplant, David’s doctors offered him his old heart to take home, and he has kept it with him ever since. Giving new meaning to the phrase “he wears his heart on his sleeve,” David has been known to pull the heart out, from time to time, to show to people, as he has done on several occasions at his local YMCA Lynfield Leisure Centre.

The story of David’s heart began back when he was 13 years old. He was living with his parents in Samoa and developed rheumatic fever. While David survived the rheumatic fever, it took a permanent toll on his heart. Specialists from New Zealand arrived in Samoa and, after thoroughly examining him, they concluded that the damage was irreversible, and that he’d need a new heart one day.

Growing to roughly the size of a football, David’s heart became about three times the size that it should have been. “I struggled with endurance sport,” says David. “I could still sprint, but it was hard and I would have to back off a bit when things got too much.”

Eventually David moved from Samoa to New Zealand, where he finished school and started a family. He made sure to keep fit, but was hindered in what he could do because of his poor heart. After a while, David suffered heartache of a different kind when his wife left him. “That was a difficult time but my faith has always helped me through. Not long after, in February 2012, doctors gave me a call,” explains David. “They told me that they had a new heart waiting for me.”

The transplant was successful, and within a month and a half, David was able to hop onto the treadmill and go for a run. His local is the gym at the Lynfield Youth & Leisure Centre managed by YMCA where he keeps himself fit by rotating around all of the machines. In fact, he considers it to almost like his second home.

One of David’s two sons happens to be a gym instructor, so he makes sure to keep up with his regular gym routine. And, if he ever has any questions, David knows exactly who to turn to! “I’m not training for anything in particular, I’m just grateful to be alive, and I want to keep my heart healthy,” he says.