Cass photo

Former Oldham County Detention Center Deputy Cass White, left, poses with his friend Justin Johnson. White is need of community help amid an ongoing heart transplant procedure.

They nicknamed him “Mammoth.”

Oldham County jail staff took one quick look at Casteldera “Cass” White and knew they wanted him as their newest deputy in 2017.

A hulking presence with Schwarzenegger muscle and cantaloupe-sized biceps, even the most madcap inmates would think twice before messing with White, a professional power-lifter and trainer who boasts a max bench press of 600 pounds, an 800-pound squat and an 800-pound deadlift. More than a decade of law enforcement experience also made him an impressive candidate.

What the inmates didn’t know is that White’s intimidating frame conceals a loving spirit.

In his global travels as a power-lifter and brand ambassador for “Mammoth Mass” gainer formula, White’s dynamic personality drew three-hour lines for a meet-and-greet or workout advice—and he was happy to wait for every last fan.

He also has a reputation for charity work, which includes handing out toys to sick children at Norton Hospital.

Several months ago, White learned the engine of that love is failing. Doctors said he needed a new heart.

EKG results and other medical tests confirmed Sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease that inflames the heart, lungs and organs.

It started roughly a year-and-a-half ago when White simply felt “off” one afternoon at work.

“I have a good read on my body and knew something wasn’t right,” said White, who immediately logged on to a work computer and scheduled an urgent care appointment the same evening.

After an EKG, doctors asked questions White never thought he’d hear.

“Have you ever had a heart attack?”

“Have you ever had a stroke?”

“Have you ever passed out?”

Assisting medical staff was equally perplexed to see peak physical fitness plugged to a heart machine.

“Everybody was looking at me like, what is he doing here?” White said.

He answered “no” to all their questions, leaving doctors puzzled by the readings, which picked up irregular heartbeats.

Eventually they determined the autoimmune disorder and put White on a medication and testing regimen for the last year, but his condition worsened. Nausea and stomach pain persisted with each passing day.

In torment, he set up an appointment with heart specialists at Norton Audubon Hospital in Louisville. They decided to keep him at the hospital for four days upon inspection.

It was then that Norton heart failure specialist Dr. Kelly McCants told White he needed a heart transplant. They immediately airlifted him to Cleveland Clinic, where he would remain for 83 days.

‘It’s like being in jail’

Thursday afternoon, at the time of his interview with the Era, marked White’s first taste of relative freedom in nearly three months.

He was homebound for rest and recuperation after several months at Cleveland Clinic, an experience he compares to prison.

“It’s like being in jail,” said White, who’s still yet to undergo the transplant that put him there.

A combination of procedural examinations to be put on the donor waitlist and a litany of medical complications were contributors to the delay.

“Before you even get on the list, they run all these tests [on your] lungs, kidneys and livers to make sure they’re up to [standard] before you get the heart transplant,” he said. “Everything has to be working the way it’s supposed to be working to before that. They have a huge team of five to 10 doctors for each organ.”

Concerns over his liver and a kidney blockage slowed that process for several weeks. He’s also endured medical devices like a balloon pump to assist with blood flow in the heart and another apparatus that required him to lie in bed for three weeks straight.

“It was like learning to walk again,” White said when doctors were able to finally route the apparatus to his shoulder for improved mobility.

Beyond the physical pain involved in these procedures, time has been the greatest enemy to White, who is no longer employed by the jail and lost most of his muscle mass.

“I’ve been out of work for almost a year and haven’t been collecting a paycheck,” he said. “Health insurance will pay for some [of these medical costs], but I’ve been surviving off the little I have in savings.”

Another source for White is a GoFundMe, titled “Donate to help out a true hero,” set up by his long-time friend, Rob Simone. So far, he has a little less than $7,000 for a $50,000 goal.

“Our aim is to raise $50,000 which will allow Cass the time to receive a heart from a donor and fully recover from his surgery,” Simone wrote in the GoFundMe bio. “Even a small amount can make a difference if we can get enough people to contribute.”

White may no longer work at the Oldham County Detention Center (OCDC), but a big advocate throughout the ordeal has been Jailer-Elect Jeff Tindall.

Tindall, in an interview the same day, said the OCDC has around 50 “TeamCass” t-shirts available for $25, with all of the proceeds going to White.

“The Be Kind Sisters also reached out to me and are making signs [for Cass] that will also be $25 with all proceeds will go to Cass and his well-being,” Tindall said.

Additional opportunities to help include 5% of all current sales at Revival Coffee Company in La Grange going to White; On Monday, June 27, from 5-10 p.m. Gustavo’s in La Grange will donate 10% of sales to White’s heart procedure.

“The jail misses him,” Tindall said. “We miss him not only as a team member, but a family member. He now knows what people in jail feel like. He was incarcerated in his room for 80-odd days.”

As of last week, White said he will be off the heart transplant list for three-six months so his body can recover from the intense medical procedures.

“I have no choice but to rest,” he said. “It’s going to take a day-by-day blessing to get back to where I need to be. Hopefully they’ll find me a heart when I get there.”