Young at heart

One phone call changed Norm Meyer’s life.
Krystle Wagner
Apr 8, 2013

As the Spring Lake resident lay in bed attached to a machine that pumped medication into his heart, his doctor called. For four months, the then-70-year-old man and his family waited for the call.

The call that came Dec. 29, 2011, informed Meyer that doctors had a suitable heart transplant donor for him.

“Are you still interested in that heart?” Meyer recalled the doctor asking.

“Yes, sir,” said Meyer, whose heart had small vessels which led to congestive heart failure.

Meyer has had five heart attacks — his first came at age 49. He had five stints, a pacemaker and milrinone drip before his condition put him on the waiting list for a new heart.

“My heart was deteriorating,” he said.

Leading up to the surgery, Meyer’s wife of 51 years, Susan, said she was joyful for the gift her husband was given, yet saddened for the family losing a loved one to make it happen.

After the transplant, Susan said Norm's skin color improved and he didn’t suffer from shortness of breath.

Norm Meyer is one of 28,537 recipients across the country who received organ transplants in 2011.

As of March 1, 3,135 Michigan patients were waiting for a transplant.

Tim Makinen, communications director for Gift of Life Michigan, said neither donors nor their estates face a cost for donating organs.

“It does not take away grief, but it certainly is something that can give (families) comfort in a difficult time,” he said.

While not all recipients and donor families meet, the Meyer family received a letter and picture of Norm’s 30-year-old heart donor within three weeks of leaving the hospital. After writing back and forth, the two families spoke on the phone and learned Norm and the donor had both enjoyed fishing and were about the same size.

At a donor convention through the Gift of Life in the fall of 2012, the Meyers met with the donor’s family. Norm said the meeting was an emotional experience.

"They gave me another shot at life,” he said.

The families have remained in contact and plan to meet again soon.

“We truly have an extended family now,” Susan said.

Norm will remain on medication to prevent his body from rejecting the heart, but he can live freely and do anything he wants, he said.

How to become a registered organ donor:

— Apply in person at the Secretary of State office, 1110 Robbins Road in Grand Haven.

— There is a registry drive on Tuesday, April 9.

— To register online, CLICK HERE.

 

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