Cary, N.C. — Monday wasn't just another school day for Lucas Santos. It was the Cary High School junior's first day back in five months.
Three months ago, Santos, born with a congenital heart defect known as Ebstein anomaly, underwent a heart transplant after showing signs of heart failure.
Now, he says, he's ready to finish up his junior year with new energy, new hopes and a new perspective on life.
"Before, I was kind of a loner. Then this thing happened to me, and I kind of realized people really do care," Santos said.
Santos is a trombone player in the Cary High School marching band, and more than half of the band surprised him with a rendition of the school's fight song when he arrived at school Monday morning.
"It was pretty amazing, just seeing the look on his face as he walked through the door, seeing how many people came here to support him and how many people care about him and were welcoming him back," junior David Hohe said.
Fellow band members, like Hohe, say they are glad Santos is back and can't wait until he's marching again. His health issues kept him from marching last year.
"He was faced with the hardest thing anyone else in the band has ever had to deal with," senior Kyle Markham said.
Band mates see him as a fighter.
"We use him as our role model," Markham said.