The Original Iron Addict – CT Fletcher – is a phenomenal example of grit, perseverance and never quitting. After suffering from five heart attacks, and flat-lining on the operating table, Fletcher was able to receive a much needed heart transplant in 2018. But the challenges didn’t stop there. Watch the full video to learn what the champion, entrepreneur and family man is up to as he approaches his one-year anniversary of his heart transplant, how he now views strength, what he wants his legacy to be, and more. Read or watch the interview below.
How Do You Define Strength?
Man, when I was young, I had a different definition for it. Now, when I was a young man, I defined strength as who could pick up the most. Who was the strongest? Who was the biggest? I defined strength in a physical terminology. But now that I’m old, strength has a whole new definition for me; strength of character and strength of will are vastly more important than physical strength. So I look at strength two different ways now — one through my old eyes and one through my new eyes.
Who is stronger – the old C.T. or the new C.T.?
Without a doubt my will, which is infinitely important because I know what it is to have your physical strength snatched from you in the blink of an eye. Everything that you’ve worked for physically taken just like that! In the blink of an eye, it could be gone. I’m sitting here talking to my wife just like I’m talking to you. And next minute, I was dead. I was gone! If it wasn’t for the good Lord and this pacemaker they had in my heart, I wouldn’t be doing this interview right now. So, physical strength is good but the strength of character and the strength of will is what will never forsake you. Your body will forsake you and your strength will forsake you. All the muscles and stuff you’ve built up – this strength that you depended on, it can be gone! I mean that was my life. I depended on that! I was the “Sidewalk Cracker!” But it’s fleeting and won’t last always. But my will! I could be 103 years old and my will – it will still be stronger than ever. So it’s much more important.
How Did You Rebuild Yourself From Your Weakest Point? (Almost Dying)
Nothing but faith…nothing but faith. That’s the thing – My strength – like I said everything that I had built my life on and based my life on — everything was:
“Who’s the biggest?”
“Who was the baddest?”
“Who’s the strongest?”
My momma told me when I was a little boy, she said “I don’t care how bad you are, there’s always somebody that’s just a little bit badder. And I said, well momma somebody’s gotta be the baddest. And I love you but that’s me!
So strength was my everything — to be the strongest and to be the baddest. So to have all of that snatched away from me — I mean I didn’t even recognize my own self. I would have people that had known me for 20 years sit two feet away from me and didn’t know who I was. I was unrecognizable! All that strength was gone, but the one thing when I was down, down, down, down at my lowest point; the one thing that seen me through; that let me know I had faith that I know I could come back.
See, faith is the evidence of things not seen. I couldn’t see it when I looked in the mirror. I didn’t see no way to recover. I couldn’t see it in the physical but my faith is what got me through. It let me know that I could do it. My faith was strong. Body was weak, muscles was gone, but my faith stayed strong.
Why did you doubt your son, Samson, when he said you would survive your third heart attack?
At that particular moment when Samson said [I would survive] I was very doubtful — very doubtful. He said it right after I had the heart attack. I had a major heart attack at home. I wasn’t in the hospital. I wasn’t around no ambulance or anything like that. I could see everything was fading to black. My screen was fading to black. It was just a small tunnel left. And I wanted to apologize to my son for leaving him too early, because I felt like he still needed me, but it was nothing I could do about it. I said, “Son, I’m sorry Daddy’s not gon’ make it.” And [Samson] was like “Oh, you gon’ make it daddy. You gon’ make it!” And I’m like “no I ain’t! “I want to. I want to hold on. I’m not ready to leave yet but there’s nothing I could do about it, I’m fading Son. I’m not gon’ make it.” And he said “Daddy, I’m telling you! You are not dying tonight!”
And so, he demonstrated the faith then! I thought for sure I was going to die but one thing about it — I was not afraid to die because my past had prepared me for my future because I had flat-lined three times prior to that. So,I wasn’t afraid of what was on the other side or what lie in wait for me on the other side of this life. I wasn’t afraid that. But I just felt it was my time. I just felt time was up. Samson said “no it was not.”And he was right that time!
How did it feel when you were notified of a match on the donors list?
It was, I think, the most relieved that I’ve ever felt in my life because I said I flat-lined two more times prior to getting on the transplant list and I’m like man I don’t think I can flat-line one more time, God. I mean how many times God gon’ step in? This is five times that He’s stepped in after flat lines and I’m like – I know a cat gets nine lives but I think I used up all my chances. This is five and I was like I don’t know if I will make another one.
So a lady called it was about 1 o’clock in the morning. She was she was so calm I thought she was gonna try to sell me a magazine subscription or something. She said “is this C.T. Fletcher?” “Yes ma’am it sure is.” “Well we found the heart for you.” I’m like well YEAH! Praise God I think I was I was very happy…I was very happy. She was very nonchalant about it, but I guess it’s to call people and tell them “we got heart.” So, she was very good at her job and I was very happy.
The New Heart You Received is an Older Woman’s Heart – What Does This Mean to You?
Well, I’ll tell you what – what it meant to me when I first heard it was “oh no!” I said, “oh no” Because of course you don’t know until…they told me they had a match, but she didn’t tell me anything else…I had no idea that I had a woman’s heart until five days after I received the transplant. And, the doctor who told me — I don’t believe he was supposed to tell me that soon because when I told MY doctor that I knew that I had a woman’s heart, she was like “you know? “Who told you?” But the funny thing about it is, the doctor who told me I had a woman’s heart would come in in every day and he’d ask, “how are you doing Mr. Fletcher?” I’d always say “I’m blessed. I’m blessed. I’m blessed.” And I was swollen with water and he was like “you gone change that [answer] next time I ask you.”
I said, “I don’t care what you tell me doc, it’s not going to change. My answer is always going to be the same. I’m blessed.” And when I say “I’m blessed” I’m not telling you that I feel great or that I feel like running an Olympic marathon. I’m not telling you that. What I’m saying is I’m blessed because I’m still here. I’m blessed to be alive. I’m blessed to have another day, to see another day. I’m blessed because of that, not because I feel like jumping over trees and sh*t.
So he came in and I think it was his purpose to try and discourage me for some reason; this particular doctor just wanted me to be unhappy. How can I be so happy when I’m all messed up like this? So he said “well, you know you got a woman’s heart.”
And I said “no doc, I did not know that.” I’ll tell you when he told me — in my head I was f*cked up! I mean that messed me up big time because I did a lot of studying on the statistics of heart transplants before I actually got one. And the statistics say that woman-to-man has the poorest rate of longevity after the transplant. They live the shortest. So, when he told me I had a woman’s heart, I was like “oh f*ck! Damn!” And then he told me that the woman was around my age, and I was like “oh my God.” I was thinking, well if it’s a woman’s heart, maybe she’s was like 18. Then okay, cool! I got some years left. And he said “no I think she was 56 or 57.” I’m like damn she’s almost as old as me. So he hit me with a double whammy.
I will admit to you for the rest of that day, I was f*cked up. I mean that really – I’m thinking about the statistics I read and it was really really messing with me. I try to remain positive all the time. Well, the devil came in boy! And he was trying to throw me for a loop with that. Mr. Positivity. Mr. It’s Still Yo Mutha F*ckin Set. Mr. I Don’t Care What You Go Through. And he hit me with one. He hit me with the hook and the upper cut. Hit me and I’m like “oh my God!”
For the rest of that day I was thinking “oh Lord why?” Why did you let this happen? I could have held on a little longer until they got a man’s heart or a younger heart or something. Why? Why did you do this to me? And you know what, He answered me…He said look, if I gave you an 18 year-old Olympic medalist’s heart, then everybody would say “oh, wow, no wonder C.T. is doing so good. No wonder he’s able to go back to training. No wonder he is able to do all these things. He’s got a brand new young heart.” But no! I’m going to give you the exact opposite of what everybody thinks. I’m going to give you a woman’s heart. And I will give you an elderly woman’s heart. Because I’m God! And if I want to show off a little bit and
show them that – I am who I say I am. And if I give you this woman’s heart and you go out there and do what you ain’t supposed to do, then maybe they will know that I’m God and believe that I’m still in charge.I work miracles every day. You don’t tell me C.T., I tell you! That’s the heart for you!
So that’s why they gave me that heart. He just wanted to show them that’s He’s still God. He’s just showing off a little bit. I’m God and I can put whatever heart in you I want to put in you! And you gon’ live on because I said so. So I shut up. Ok! I was fine after that Ok. No problem.
Whatever You say, I’m with You.
Thoughts on the Saying “Everyone Dies But Not Everyone Lives”
Oh it’s so true. It is so true. One of my good friends from Russia told me “man, CT they really talking bad about you in Russia” because they said:
“You’re taking this precious gift of the second chance at life and you’re squandering it.”
“You’re out there running in parking lots falling on your face, you’re out there trying to work out [too soon]; you’re just going to destroy another heart.”
“They could have given that heart to somebody who needed it.”
So that they look at me and they say you know they have judged me and they say I’m just out there to destroy another heart. But look, everybody has to die but living… that living part is so important… Just being alive — I could stay at home, sitting in my easy chair and protect my new heart and not do anything too strenuous and worry about just protecting [my heart] and just trying to stay around here on earth as long as possible, but that ain’t living! That is not living! Just being alive is not enough!
Watch the rest of our interview with C.T. Fletcher below as he discusses:
- His path to becoming a 6x World Champion
- Advice for those in pursuit of championships
- Relationship with his son, Samson
- New workout program Martial Arms
- How he wants to be remembered…Legacy