Ex-Mustans soccer player seeks support for heart transplant

(Images courtesy of John Ofahengaue)
John Ofahengaue remains positive while in hospital after his second cardiac arrest, earlier this year.

“I’ve always been a fighter my whole life,” said former Western New Mexico University football player John Ovahanga, who has cardiomyopathy and is looking for a new heart. Its usual function.
Nearly a year ago, on August 8, 2021, after hard soccer practice, Ofahengaue collapsed head-on on the field at WNMU. He was off for six to eight minutes, until the nurse was able to resuscitate him with an AED (automated external defibrillator) – shocking him four times and finally bringing him back to life.
“During those six to eight minutes, I could already see my uncle, who had died of the same condition, and my grandfather, who had passed away from the same condition,” Ofahengaue said, detailing everything he remembered from those short minutes. “I could see my soul lifting my body and really going into the clouds. I was in the third person perspective, and I could see my soul and body lifted up.
He continued, “As I was raised, I came to this bright spot in the clouds – the sun is just shining – and I see my uncle and I see my grandfather waiting at a huge, pearly gate.” “I could see them coming, and the whole time I was up, they were saying, ‘It’s not over, you have to come back, it’s not over,’ just repeating those words.”
Hours before Ofahengaue went into cardiac arrest, high school football coach and mentor, Lee Leslie, died of the exact same condition.
“I’m passing my coach on the way down,” Ovahingawe said. ‘We see each other, and he’s fashioned – he’s dressed in his white suit by this huge angel, and he’s getting ready to leave beyond the veil. I’m back [to life] He is going. All I see is this huge smile he always gave me. As I got past him, he said, “It’s not over,” he said again—by ​​then, I was back in my body. “
Once he was revived, the coaches raced Ofahengaue to an ambulance—and because he’s the competitive guy, he told his coach, “No matter what happened, I wasn’t last into the conditioning workouts—I was first.”
Even after he nearly died, he had to tell his coach that it wasn’t for nothing.
“He’s a really good guy, a very motivated guy,” said WNMU defense coordinator Junior Tanuvasa. “His medical condition sort of prevents him from doing a lot of the things he wants to do at the moment being a young man himself. But he’s an amazing person – a really good kid. We’re praying for him here and we still check in on him periodically. I’m not able to check on him as much as I was on him when he was here – it’s tough for us, and we’re trying to make sure he’s okay.
He continued, “John was slashing his butt throughout the practice, ripping his tail throughout the training.” “He was putting in the effort you would expect a kid to put in. It was a tough situation for everyone for sure, but we managed to get the paramedics there.”
Ofahengaue was born on May 18, 1998, in Laie, Hawaii, to a single mother, and said he had always loved sports – football in particular. He attended Kahuku High School, well known for soccer, and in recent years has produced the most NFL players per capita. With the passion and love for football instilled in him at such a young age, news of Ofahengaue’s cardiac arrest shattered his life’s dream of playing professionally.
“I just asked [my cardiologist in Silver City] Directly, “Am I allowed to play football anymore?” , he said, before informing him that he would never be able to play again. My feelings started to take control. She was silent for five minutes, then began to cry. Then I started telling my cardiologist I wouldn’t leave their office until they signed me up to play.”
Although it was difficult to receive this life-changing information, Ofahengaue knew he couldn’t play football anymore if he wanted to live. To make matters worse, the summer before he went into cardiac arrest, he was talking to scouts and agents about a possible invitation to the NFL.
“I couldn’t let my dreams disappear,” he said. “It was very difficult for me, and I worked hard to make my dreams come true. With time, I slowly began to let go and slowly see my purpose here on this earth.”
After his first cardiac arrest, doctors surgically inserted a pacemaker and defibrillator, which ended up saving his life nearly a year later. Recently, while sleeping at home in Hawaii, his heart rate rose to 260 beats per minute, and he fell into a second cardiac arrest. A pacemaker was able to revive him, spontaneously shocking him and bringing him back to life.
“I think the second that happened to me was actually my other ticket out,” Ofahengaue said. “Doctors were saying a lot of people don’t survive this whole year.”
While Ofahengaue has a history of coronary artery disease on his father’s side of the family, as well as a family history of sudden cardiac death, being so young and healthy, he never expected anything to happen to him. He said he has remained strong and positive the whole time, and continues to fight every day, no matter what.
“My family and being in Hawaii helped keep me positive and motivated,” he said. “It’s a lot different [in Hawaii]. It is very different from the mainland. We have the beach, we have the food – there are a bunch of things that make you realize how grateful you are to be here.”
Ofahengaue is now raising money for his $100,000 heart transplant goal, which would pay 20 percent of the cost of the surgery that his insurance won’t cover. So far, he’s raised about $16,000, which he said is a really good start.
“I’ve had a lot of support from the whole community,” he said. “Some people were fundraising for me, selling t-shirts, and some were selling local food to me. I have a couple fundraisers coming in. I’m trying to do a meaningful concert with a bunch of reggae bands. I already teamed up with Subway locally to set aside a full day of profits for me “.
In the near future, Ofahengaue hopes to get into coaching. He said he sees himself as part of the football family, teaching and inspiring other kids just like him. He said he’s already received multiple internship offers, including one at WNMU.
“I told him when he was ready [to coach]Tanovasa said: “He is very knowledgeable, he has a lot of energy, he is a very happy and infectious person. His personality is very infectious. He has a smile of gold. I pray he is able to do that and is a coach – I think he will be really good when he is ready “.
To support Ofahengaue and his transplant journey, visit gofundme.com/f/johns-heart-transplant-goal.
Jordan Archunde can be reached in [email protected] press.com.

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