Fred Nelis, 60, of Holland, and Gordon Veldman, 67, of Pentwater, underwent transplant surgeries simultaneously. The two men had a common donor and their surgeries took place at the same time, in the same place.
Nelis, a swimmer, was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy, a progressive heart disease with an unknown cause. Veldman was suffering from emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Veldman said, "Because someone said 'yes' " to becoming an organ donor, "I've got a future. It's as simple as that."
AdvertisementSince their transplants, both men are doing well. Veldman has recovered 96 percent of his lung capacity, and Nelis is swimming four days a week.
Nelis said the most difficult part of his journey back to good health was coming to terms with realization that somebody had to die. "That's kind of a harrowing thought," he said. "It's kind of a deep moral dilemma. We are very fortunate that somebody was so gracious."
"We feel very strongly about the importance of those internal organs and how they support us in our endeavors," Veldman said. "Without them we are has-beens. Memories."