Hometown: Lynnfield, Mass.
Weight: 215 lbs
Height: 5' 11"
Jim Murphy pulled a 65,000-pound dump truck, completed an 895-pound deadlift, and won the Massachusetts State Strongman Championships three years in a row. But when he helped a friend move into her apartment five years ago, he felt light-headed while carrying a mere 19-inch TV up a few flights of stairs. He felt faint again a week later during a set of deadlifts, then again the next week while training. That's when Murphy rushed to the hospital to get checked out.
The results weren't good: Murphy had cardiomyopathy—an enlarged and weakened heart. He'd also developed a clot that was allowing his faulty ticker to pump only about 8% of his blood. The doctors thought Murphy, then just 25, should have died. "They told me that lifting in the gym was completely out of the question and that I just had to rest," he says.
Handfuls of pills lowered his blood pressure and slowed his heart rate, but the meds left Murphy so groggy, he slept up to 18 hours a day. He had a pacemaker implanted, but his condition worsened. Murphy needed a new heart.
He got lucky. Just four days after going on a waiting list, he got a call at 4:30 a.m. telling him one was available. "I was very excited," says Murphy. "I didn't have time to get nervous or scared because it happened so fast."
Four days after the transplant, despite a chest full of cracked ribs, Murphy gingerly walked around the recovery room. "I felt great," he recalls. "I knew I wouldn't run into problems."
In just three months, Murphy was lifting, and six months later, he took fifth in the New Hampshire strongman competition. "I drove home with a big smile on my face," he remembers.
Today, Murphy's the same guy he was before his old heart started to fail him, except for the scar on his chest and a new low-sodium diet. He's returned to work at his family's fire-prevention business, and he's grateful to be back working out in the gym as well. "Every time I look in the mirror and see the scar," he says, "I just think 'miracle.'"
Jim's Tip: Be Your Own Man
"I don't want to be normal. When I think of myself, or when other people think of me, I don't want the word normal attached to my name. Not everybody can do what I do, and not everybody has gone through what I've gone through. It's just my state of mind, I guess."