POMEROY — “At midnight, the doctors called and they had two new lungs for me. That’s my new birthday now.”
Steve Van Meter says he expected to wait several years to receive an organ transplant, even though his diagnosis gave him only weeks to live.
As his lungs began to fail in early 2016, Ohio State doctors raced to “find plan B.”
Van Meter has been a registered organ donor since a two year stint in the Marine Corps. in the early seventies, but despite this, “Before you’re sick, you don’t really pay too much attention to transplants.”
Mary Gilmore, who organizes events for the Van Meter’s Meigs High School Class of 1970, says the life saving surgery that followed has been an inspiration.
“He is really deserving, although he will say he wasn’t. Medically, emotionally, he understands every day is a gift. And he is really someone who lives every day the fullest. We can all learn from that,” said Gilmore.
The class of 1970 and American Legion Post 39, of which Van Meter is a longtime member, will host an open house this Sunday, June 11 from 2-4 p.m at the Legion Post to celebrate Van Meter and his recovery.
“We hope to have a large group of friends and community members join us in celebrating his miracle of life,” said Gilmore.
And miraculous recovery it has been.
Though expected to be in the hospital for months, Van Meter surprised his Legion friends by returning to Pomeroy after only 30 days. In fact, he was walking around the hospital by his second day of recovery.
“The only thing I worried about, was how am I going to stay in bed for a month. Breathing fully, outside, that first day outside was emotional,” he said.
Van Meter has had only one setback, when he damaged his sutures during a breathing test. Otherwise, at 64, “I think I am in better health than ever.”
He has made himself available to any potential donor or donee, hoping to put patients at ease and encourage more donations of the kind that saved his life.
“I would like more information to get out about donors. There are a lot of myths about being sliced and diced, but it’s not like that. You can’t even tell organs have been removed. And it can help and save so many people.”
He wrote a three page letter to the family of his donor, via the Donate Life advocacy group, to share his extreme thanks.
Van Meter also says his bedside overflowed with “so many cards, letter, calls, visits…I think I ended up on ten or twelve church lists.”
He resolved that when he got out, he would visit each and say thank you.
As walking proof of the medical success, he hoped to continue to spread knowledge and convince others to become organ donors.
“Maybe that’s why I was saved, I still don’t think I’m worthy, but I’m not going to argue with Him.”
“I’ve had three people tell me they’ve changed their status based on my story. Hopefully more word gets out there, and more people learn about it. What greater gift can you give than life?”
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