Greg Olsen became one of the all-time great players on the Carolina Panthers by doing more than simply being one of the best NFL tight ends of his generation. In the Carolinas, Olsen also became a pillar in the community for the sake of children just like his son TJ, who now faces another serious health issue.
On Monday, Greg Olsen revealed in a series of posts on his Twitter account that his eight-year old son TJ's modified heart is "reaching its end." The family is currently working through the process of determining his next steps, which could lead to TJ receiving a heart transplant. TJ was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped.
This past week has been exceptionally challenging for our family. As many of you know, our son TJ has faced serious heart issues since birth. TJ has already undergone 3 open heart surgeries and has survived with a modified heart for his first 8 years of life.— Greg Olsen (@gregolsen88) May 24, 2021
Unfortunately, it seems his heart is reaching its end. We are currently working through the process to determine our next steps, which ultimately could lead to a heart transplant— Greg Olsen (@gregolsen88) May 24, 2021
As noted by David Newton of ESPN, TJ Olsen's heart defect required four surgeries, three of which were open-heart and one of which involved the installation of a pacemaker. On Tuesday, Olsen offered an update on his son, sharing through his Instagram account that he was undergoing a heart cath procedure in order to gather data to determine the best transplant candidate possible.
News of TJ Olsen's heart problems was met with an outpouring of sympathy, particularly in the Carolinas where Olsen played the best football of his NFL career. After being traded to the Carolina Panthers in 2011, Olsen became an All-Pro tight end key to one of the best eras in franchise history, which included a 15-1 season and trip to Super Bowl 50 in 2015. In March, Olsen signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Panthers.
Christian McCaffrey commented on the situation from OTAs.
"This is one of those times that's not really explainable. And I've talked to Greg a little bit just through texts. But what a brutal situation," McCaffrey said. "For those of you who don't know, TJ is one of the best little kids in the world. At eight years old to go through what he's gone through in his life, and then add this on top of it, is just sad.
"But I know they have such an amazing support system around, and we are all here for the Olsen family. And I know the entire North Carolina, South Carolina community is as well."
Thomas Davis - one of Olsen's longtime teammates - spoke about his TJ Olsen on Thursday.
"We just know that he's a fighter, and that he's a kid that's gonna pull through this with a ton of prayer and with the good doctors they have at the Levine Children's Hospital ," Davis said, via Joe Person of The Athletic. "We know they're gonna take good care of him. And we just really continue to pray for Greg and the family."
Amidst TJ's heart condition, Greg Olsen and his wife Kara established The HEARTest Yard initiative, which offers a variety of support and services to families with children born with congenital heart disease at no cost to them. Last December, Atrium Health unveiled The HEARTest Yard Congenital Heart Center at Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, a next-generation pediatric cardiovascular and congenital heart outpatient clinic.