Here we go again,everyone-- I'm gearing up for the 2018 Transplant Games of America!
As many of you know, just a few months ago, in January, I celebrated my FOUR year anniversary of my heart and kidney transplants, so I really love the unique opportunity for me and my family to spread organ donation awareness by participating in the Transplant Games of America (TGA). The Games are held every two years all over the United States. My first Games were in 2016 in Cleveland, but this summer they are being held in the beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah, August 2nd-7th. The Transplant Games of America is a multi-sport festival event for individuals who have undergone life-saving transplant surgeries. Competition events are open to living donors, organ transplant recipients, bone marrow recipients, and a limited number of corneal and tissue transplant recipients. More than an athletic event, the TGA highlights the critical importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation, while celebrating the lives of organ donors and recipients.
Prior to 2012, I was always very healthy--a trip to the doctor was rare. I was active daily, lifting weights, playing full court basketball a few mornings a week and riding my bike wherever and whenever I could find a single-track trail. Out of the blue I began having shortness of breath and became fatigued very easily. I soon found out from my local cardiologist that I had congestive heart failure caused by an unknown virus that attacked my heart. I received treatment in Des Moines, but soon had to be taken by ambulance to Mayo in Minnesota where I underwent my first open heart surgery to have an LVAD placed. This is when I first heard that I would be put on a waiting list for a new heart (Wouldn't it be cool if one day there is no waiting list? Are you registered to be a donor?) I returned home after a month at Mayo and a week later my wife gave birth to our son, Zion. What a gift to be home for that time with them and my older children too. Unfortunately, a year later I became very sick again and found myself living in the hospital at Mayo. About a month into my stay, my heart completely failed me, along with my kidneys. In my second open heart surgery, I had my heart removed and I was given a total artificial heart and began dialysis—both machines keeping me alive when a month and half later my cardiologist showed up in my hospital room to tell me the news that a match had been found for me. In 2015 my family and I had the joy to be able to meet the family of my donor, Steve, and to embrace and thank them in person for the generous gift from their son. A day doesn't pass that I don't pray for them and think of Steve.
I'm thrilled that for years now I've been healthy enough to be truly living, being around each day to watch my son grow up, and I'm even working out, playing basketball and biking too. This summer I'm signed up to compete again in many Track & Field events, Basketball, and Volleyball at the Transplant Games. I hope to take home some medals again, connect again with Team Iowa members, and create new friendships from new members on our team and with people from all over the country that are competing too. I was so humbled by all the support I had on my journey to a new heart and kidney, touched by all the love during my recovery, and I'm so thankful for all the prayers I continue to get as I undergo heart biopsies, procedures, or just yearly transplant appointments and tests. I'm now so thankful to you for supporting me at the 2018 Donate Life Transplant Games. Your contribution to me and Team Iowa, no matter how small, I promise, is greatly appreciated. I'm proud to represent the Iowa Donor Network/Team Iowa, but even more proud to compete in Steve's honor.
My daily challenge is to do my best to live each day like my donor is watching.
Love and Light,
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