Christopher Bentley: A Tale of Transplants and Tenacity

Christopher Bentley with his wife

In his twenties, Christopher Bentley faced a diagnosis of restrictive cardiomyopathy, a condition causing the heart chambers to gradually stiffen. Originally from Atlanta, Bentley initially sought a heart transplant at Emory Hospital — but, after two years on the waiting list, opted for a change.

“I wasn’t going to get a transplant at Emory,” said Bentley. “I ended up doing research and found out that MUSC was doing a lot of heart transplants. I asked if I could come there, and they said yes.”

Bentley moved to Charleston, leaving all his friends and family back in Atlanta. Following an evaluation, Bentley eventually received an early morning call from the hospital. They asked him to be there in 45 minutes. His mother, who planned to be his caretaker, was still 5 ½ hours away. 

“So, I show up and they’re waiting on me,” said Bentley. “They’re like, ‘oh, is your family member parking the car?’ I told them I didn’t have a family member there. They asked if I had brought a friend, and I said no. They said that I was the first person they knew of at MUSC to show up by themselves for a heart transplant. I was like my parents will be here, but it’s going to be like 5 1/2 hours!”

Bentley’s new heart lasted 15 years, but after three bouts of rejection, he found himself back on the transplant list in 2018. Unfortunately, a new heart wasn’t the only thing he needed— he had been diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in both kidneys. Rejected by MUSC and several other hospitals for being “too risky,” his doctor eventually connected him with Duke, where he underwent a heart-kidney double transplant in 2022. Unfortunately, his journey wasn’t over.

“Six months later, I had to have a double nephrectomy to take out my kidneys because they had renal cell carcinoma in them,” said Bentley. “My transplanted kidney had gotten damaged somewhere in the process. I had to go on dialysis, and I tried to find a living donor. My wife was able to donate a kidney, but not to me, to someone who was a cross match. While she wasn’t a match for me, she matched for this person in Virginia and their kidney donor was a match for me. They did all four operations in the same day, and the kidneys passed each other on the road. That was Dec. 27, 2023.” 

Today, Bentley is focused on recovery and is forever thankful to the donors who have given him the gift of life over the years. His advice for other patients looking for transplants is to worry less and be your own best advocate. 

“A lot of people don’t realize that they have a choice, that they’re a consumer, not just a patient,” said Bentley. “Each hospital has its own theology of transplant. I was 28, and Emory wanted to wait as long as they could with my old heart before they gave me a transplant. I was like, I want the years now, I don’t want the years at the end. MUSC wanted to get it done as soon as possible. If you don’t like what one is doing, then find another. Don’t just sit there. And remember, if you look back in your life, probably 95% of the things you worried about ended up being okay. When I was younger, I lost two years of my life worrying. I pulled back from my friends and stuff like that. Don’t pull back. Keep your friends and family close. Everything is going to be okay.”

More than 100,000 people are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. Together, we can make a difference. Register your decision here: