Heart recipient says his transplant was the ultimate gift - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Heart recipient says his transplant was the ultimate gift

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) - It's the ultimate gift. Being an organ donor. It's a tough decision to make. But one that leaves a recipient extremely grateful. Just ask Steve Stille, of Storm Lake, Iowa.

Steve Stille was 49 years old when he suffered his first heart attack. Just a month later... in May of 1997 Steve went into cardiac arrest. The outcome was grim. "They call the injection fraction as a measure of how efficient your heart is beating and most people's is about 65%. Mine was, at that point in time, about 9%," said Steve Stille. Steve went on the organ donor list... but was taken off it a year later when his heart appeared to be doing slightly better. But time would take away that improvement. "My energy levels were not nearly as good as they were prior to my heart attack. And there were a lot of things I couldn't physically that I could do previously, and it got progressively worse as the years went by," said Steve.

In 2008, Steve went back on the organ donor list. "I was hopeful. I was scared. But I was confident in my own way that things would work out," said Steve. And he was right. In March of 2009, Steve's transplant coordinator called to see how he was doing. At the time, Steve was watching an NCAA tournament game. A half an hour later... another call. "What are you doing, and I said the same thing I was doing 30 minutes ago, I said I'm watching the basketball game. She said, well, this is the call, you're going to receive a new heart," said Steve. A call Steve will never forget. Ten minutes later, Steve and his daughter were in the car, on the way to Iowa City for a transplant. "There's a lot of thoughts that go through your head in that 4 hours," said Steve. Hours later, Steve woke up with a new heart. And the next day.. he was up walking. "It wasn't very far, but they were giant steps for me," said Steve.

Steve says he started thinking about his donor even before the transplant... and every day since. "It's very difficult to describe how you feel about that person, because without that donor I wouldn't be sitting here today talking to you," said Steve. He doesn't know who his donor was... and he's never met the donor's family... but he hopes to. And he knows just what he wants to say. "Thank you. I also want to tell them I often have thought about... my celebration was a very sorrowful time for them and I respect that and I understand that," said Steve. "Is there a bigger gift anyone could every give you?" asked Christy Batien. "No. Absolutely not. This is the ultimate," said Steve.

The donor family has to initiate contact if they'd like to meet the recipient... and Steve says he respects that. April is Organ Donor Awareness Month. If you'd like to be an organ donor, all you have to do is say 'yes' when asked when you renew your driver's license... or you can go online and fill out an organ donor information online at the Iowa Donor Network.  You can also call the Organ Donor Coordinator at Mercy Medical Center... that's Mary Ann O'Dell. Her number is 712-279-5684.

Online Reporter: Christy Batien

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