The Mighty Trent, On Ice!

By Maxine Phoenix

Every year, Trent S. celebrates the life of the infant he received a heart transplant from when he was five months old. December 9th, to be exact, he tells me. And, too, that he’s an “open book,” which becomes clear as we dive right into his history as a double-transplant patient, heart and kidney—but at the start of our conversation, Trent joyfully mentions that he went to the Anaheim Ducks game last night with friends and the week’s going great, thanks. He’s just as exuberant and, indeed, open, about the things that bring him happiness: The Office, particularly Dwight Schrute, the Anaheim Ducks hockey team, and his daily Starbucks. Spoiler: his order isn’t what you might expect.

Trent with Jeff Hartman and Jack Black at RSN’s 19th Renal Teen Prom

Trent lives a life full of laughter, adventure, and close encounters with his heroes. This past year was a big one for him. “My golden thirty!” he exclaims. “30th birthday, the 30th anniversary of my heart transplant, and 30 years of the Mighty Ducks.” He’s a die-hard Ducks fan. Born and raised in Orange County, Trent grew up with a deep love for the hockey team. He’s had his own team to support him in his personal journey with transplants—RSN and the Renal Teen Prom have provided him a deep feeling of community. When Trent attended his first prom in the 2000’s, he was blown away. “You gotta find a place where you belong. I finally found a place where I belonged.” At the prom, Trent met his close friend Jeff, who he considers a brother. “All of a sudden you’re surrounded by these kids, well, now they’re adults, going through these amazing things, growing up. All the kids similar to me, and also different from me. I was always in awe of it.” In the years leading up to this past, “golden” one, Trent has learned to lean on that RSN community for support, as well as friends and his family.

RSN Founder Lori Hartwell and Trent at RSN’s 25th Renal Teen Prom

As a child growing up with a heart transplant, Trent was always on immune suppression medication to prevent his heart from rejecting—and his kidneys began to slowly damage through the years. Right after his eighteenth birthday, Trent was put on a kidney transplant list, but didn’t know how long it was going to take. He waited—then got a call. But it wasn’t a match. At the same time, Trent’s mom was preparing to possibly become his kidney donor. “She started running, eating clean, all of this,” he shares. But another call came through and within twelve hours, a surgery was set up to transfer the successful match. “It was my second gift of life,” Trent reflects. “A young adult donated several organs that day—saved multiple people’s lives.” Right now, Trent feels immense gratitude for these multiple gifts. Some days are difficult, dark, he admits, which is completely normal—but he always asks himself in those moments, “What are we going to do about it?” The “what” sometimes, usually, ends up finding an episode of The Office, Trent’s favorite show of all time. It brings him relief, acts as a source of calm. His favorite part? Dwight.

Trent and with Dwight K SCHRUTE played by Rainn Wilson at Los Angeles Comic con on Saturday December 2nd 2023 wearing Trent Sullivan 21st Duck Jersey giving by the Anaheim Ducks & Anaheim Ducks Foundation

Last year, during the “golden thirty,” Trent met his hero, Rainn Wilson who plays the enigmatic, ever-scheming (with an undeniably big heart) Dwight Schrute on the show. “Meeting him was on my bucket list.” He still can’t believe it. A friend of Trent’s had sent him a message with a screenshot of the LA Comic Con lineup, where Wilson was set to appear. Trent laughs, “I freaked out.” He attended the event and was able to meet Wilson, who he describes as down to earth and “super cool,” kind, and interested in what he had to say. When the two started to get into conversation, Wilson’s publicist started to move Trent aside so the meet-and-greet could continue, but Wilson stopped it, wanting to hear more about Trent’s story. “It just…made my day,” Trent says, at a near loss for words.

What is it about The Office that keeps Trent returning time and time again? Well, it’s Dwight. “He just works so hard. He always wants to be the manager of Dunder Mifflin, and he gets there.” Trent’s favorite moments are towards the end of the show, when Dwight’s character finally achieves his series-long goal. “He makes it funnier. Between him and Steve Carrell, well…two of the greatest comedy legends of all time, in my opinion. It’s amazing. The show would not be the same without him.” Trent falls asleep often to episodes of The Office, letting the familiar dialogue lull him off towards dreams the way some listen to white noise machines. At this point, he knows all of it by heart. The themes of finding joy in the everyday, building a family, leaning on friends, and making something from nothing land with him again and again. Trent’s own love for his life is reflected back in a beautiful, and also hilarious, prism. The gift that keeps on giving.

His other big love, the Ducks, gave an even bigger gift last year. For the 2023/2024 hockey season, Trent was selected as the official “Twenty-First Duck.” The position is a mascot of sorts, a representative for the team, for the fans, for the love that they all share. His sister nominated him without him knowing, sharing Trent’s background, his story. When the family attended a Ducks game, Trent thought nothing of it (this is a normal occurrence for them) and was blown away when all of a sudden, his name was announced. “Everyone was staring at me, oh my god.” He pauses. “It was awesome.” Trent got a custom jersey with his name on it, met a former Stanley Cup winner, and then found out the terrifying but exciting news that the following week, he would be going out on the ice with the team. “I did not know how to skate…at all.” In a setup that feels straight out an episode of The Office, Trent suddenly had one week to learn how to ice skate before he would be heading onto the ice in front of over a thousand people.

Trent at the end of the day at this 30th Anniversary Celebration of his Heart Transplant Anniversary Party with Office Cookies made by and OC Baker

The following week, Trent joined the Ducks during their practice. He got to shake hands with each and every team member, talk to the coach, and spend time in the locker room with the players. He shared his story, though he shares that it can be difficult at times to recount it in full. He walked the “plum carpet” during the subsequent home-opening game, where he was interviewed for the OC Register. All season long, Trent is in the spotlight. The attention is terrifying and exciting all at once.

Starbucks is the third thing that makes Trent happy. And sometimes it delivers more than just his typical order. “One pump of kids’ cold chocolate milk with easy ice and whipped cream. And depending on the season, sometimes I’ll get some pumpkin spice or peppermint syrup in there,” in case you’re curious. Trent chuckles. “I love Starbucks. I’m a thirty-year-old dude who goes to Starbucks every single day.” Recently, Starbucks gave back—in a big way. Trent was there, talking to a few other customers (“regulars, just like myself”) when they suggested that he should write a book about his life. It struck a chord—and Trent’s been working on the book, which explores his story of living with congenial heart defects. He’s covering his family, his friends, the support systems. Opening up about his childhood, school, and adulthood. All of the key components that have shaped his life, in and around the complications and unique challenges (and insights) that having two organ transplants have brought.

Trent shares some of his words of wisdom, a taste of what’s to come in his book. First, he mentions leaning on a support system: “Always reach out to people who say that they’re there for you. Take them up on it!” Then he emphasizes the importance of giving back. In many ways, sharing his story is a part of that, but Trent also works with RSN and several other nonprofits. Next: “always advocate for yourself. Have questions.” He shares a bit of his experience working with doctors who don’t give him the respect he deserves, and laments the difference between adult and child care. “It’s frustrating to be an adult sometimes. I think ‘can I just go back?’” Lastly, and most central as a pillar of hope and belief to Trent and all he stands for, is the importance of positivity. Of choosing the good things, of finding and then leaning on what makes you feel good.

It’s about the simple things, for Trent. Watching The Office, getting his favorite drink at Starbucks, laughing with his friends, watching hockey with his family. He loves building LEGOs, too, and going to the movies. “Instead of focusing on the rollercoaster of health issues, I’m learning to let go. To go with the flow.” Trent’s ready for whatever this year holds—after the “golden thirty,” anything feels possible. He’s handling life with joy, humor, and that tried-and-true positivity. Our conversation ends with asking him his three words of choice to sum up who he is, difficult sometimes when you contain as many parts. Trent humbly shares the experience of himself through others. “People have always said I was inspirational and outgoing. And resilient.” And then we start chatting again about the Mighty Ducks, because that is also who Trent is, in heart and soul: part of a team.


Maxine Phoenix is a freelance writer and she also volunteers for RSN.

Web ID 8094