County Sheriff Grateful for Lifesaving Liver and Kidney
Working in law enforcement has its fair share of challenges. But for Hardin County Sheriff Keith Everhart, those challenges pale in comparison to the health challenges he’s faced, especially within the last few years, which have led him to become a two-time organ recipient.
Born and raised in Ada, Ohio, Everhart’s health issues began in his teens when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. He endured a complete colon removal during his senior year of high school. As he was recovering from surgery, he and a friend signed up to attend the police academy in Lima, Ohio.
Upon completing the academy training, Everhart had to wait until he turned 21 to apply for law enforcement positions. Once he was of age, he landed back home in Ada at the Hardin County Sheriff’s office, where he began his lengthy career. He started out as a midnight road deputy, then moved quickly on to sergeant and lieutenant positions. Finally, at the age of 36, he took a risk and ran for the sheriff’s position.
“I was fortunate enough to have won the election as the youngest sheriff in Hardin County’s history,” he said. “I’m currently completing my fourth 4-year term and am running for my fifth.”
Everhart credits his incredible staff and family to his success. “Nothing in life is a singular success; law enforcement is a team effort.”
Everhart and his team have experienced many impactful moments over the years. One such case involved locating a young woman who had been kidnapped. They were able to return her to her family and put the perpetrator in prison for life.
“The most impactful moments of my career are the events that have truly helped our citizens and children in Hardin County,” said Everhart. “Without the phenomenal staff I have, and my family’s support, none of this would be possible.”
It was his family and staff that helped him through some of the most difficult moments in his life, including the time leading up to his liver transplant in 2022 and subsequent kidney transplant in 2023.
At the age of 30, he was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis—a disease that affects the bile ducts of the liver and requires surgical procedures to keep them open. He had several surgeries throughout a 20-year span. But during the summer of 2022, his liver began to fail rapidly, and by October, he was in complete liver failure and placed on the national transplant waiting list.
“It was at this point in my life that I accepted my fate. God and I had many talks throughout this time. I hoped and prayed I would get a transplant, but I also prepared myself to die,” said Everhart.
The waiting period was one of the darkest of his life.
“Those few months were honestly a blur as I was very unwell and not in my right mind sometimes. My life was made up of trying to walk from the bed to the couch and sleeping a lot. It was a miserable time in life, not just for me but for my family and friends who were caring for me. They couldn’t help me. They couldn’t fix it.”
Then, on December 2, 2022, Everhart got the call. He and his wife, who is a nurse at OhioHealth Hardin Memorial Hospital, drove to Indianapolis University Hospital. The transplant surgery took place on December 3.
“My life has been simply amazing since my transplants. Everything has gone perfectly as far as recovery. Even though I ended up needing a new kidney after the liver (he received a kidney transplant in the fall of 2023), I still have been doing great. I honestly haven’t felt this good in years, and I mean years.”
His gratitude toward his family and their support is immeasurable. “My wife is my rock. At the end of this life’s journey I don’t care if I am ever remembered as the Sheriff of Hardin County. I want to be remembered as a good husband, dad and granddad.”
Everhart’s staff in the county sheriff’s office is happy to have him healthy and at the helm. To celebrate his transplant recoveries and to honor his donors, they participated in a “No Shave November” fundraiser in 2023, with proceeds going to Lifeline of Ohio. Everhart and several members of his team visited the Lifeline of Ohio office and presented a check in the amount of $850 to CEO Andrew Mullins.
Everhart said, “’Thank you’ doesn’t even begin to touch the sentiment I feel toward these donor families, who have lost loved ones and must somehow find a way to continue their own lives. Hopefully, the knowledge that their loved ones’ gifts saved another person’s life provides some comfort and solace.”
Everhart hopes to be able to share his story throughout Hardin County and beyond.
“There is no kinder gift one can make than the selfless gift of organ donation. I hope to honor my donors’ lives and gifts by not only continuing my attempt at making Hardin County a better place, but also to speak as often and as loudly as possible on the benefits of organ donation. This has been quite a journey so far, and I look forward to what comes next.”