By Eric Harned, double-lung transplant recipient

displaySimply stated, I am a blessed man. I am also proof positive that the impact of organ donation is monumental. I am excited to share my story – from being told I having four months to live to now having my LIFE back and living it to the fullest.

An unfortunate fall from the garage roof while hanging Christmas lights in late 2006 landed me in the emergency room. While there it was discovered I had scarring in my lungs. This would be the beginning of my health decline.

Fast forward to September 2014 when my right lung collapsed. I was rushed to the hospital and found that my lung function had deteriorated significantly – they gave me four to six months to live. My only option was to be placed on the national transplant wait list. After months of tests I was officially listed at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center on December 18, 2014.

selfie with oxygenMy doctors prepared me for the wait. They said I could wait for possibly months – I packed my hospital bag just to be prepared. And thank goodness I did – I received The Call just three days later! I couldn’t believe it, but felt very at peace as I rode to the hospital with an elder from my church.

I received the Gift of Life that I so desperately needed on December 22, 2014.

My recovery was a long and sometimes hard process, but through it all, I knew that I wanted to know who the person was who had given me this unbelievable gift. I began writing the donor family and in June of 2015, I was able to meet them.

I learned my donor was Rita, a devote writer, painter and photographer who grew up in Vermont. She was a giving and vibrant person. I was blessed to meet her four sisters and other family members through a meeting that was arranged by Lifeline of Ohio. It was an unbelievable two hours and I will always cherish the time I spent with her family, the hugs, the tears and the laughs.

IMG_0390When I was with Rita’s family, I vowed that I would not squander this second chance I have been given. I live every day to the fullest and aim to make a positive difference in the world. I have started to speak with high school classes about the importance of organ donation and have given a testimony at my church. I do all of this in the name of Rita, the woman who saved my life.

What are you waiting for? Sign up to be a hero like Rita today.