Ron and Steve Harrold

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Ron and Steve Harrold

Ron and Steve Harrold share a father-son connection that might be hard to believe if it wasn't so true. In a three-year period from 1993 to 1996, Ron and Steve, who both suffered from a familial condition called cardiomyopathy, received life-saving heart transplants at Lutheran Hospital.

For Ron, his journey to transplantation began in 1971 and continued for 22 years before his condition worsened and he was admitted to Lutheran in November 1993. After a relatively short time in the cardiovascular intensive care unit, just 15 days, he received a new heart.

Steve, now 58, was diagnosed with the same condition as his father in 1988 and spent eight years dealing with a deteriorating heart before a self-described physical "crash" in 1996 that left him out of options, on the transplant list and eventually in the hospital. Steve waited 60 days in CVIC before his gift of life arrived in June.

Having experienced the same emotions, the same ups and downs of waiting for a new heart, the Harrolds can now sit back and reflect on a series of events that few families ever go through once, let alone twice.

"It's a tough thing to say that you were praying for a transplant, praying for a heart to come knowing that somebody else was not going to live," said Steve. "That still makes it tough to this day, 14 years later."

Knowing the routine didn't make Ron's wait for Steve's new heart any easier. Like any father, Ron worried more for Steve than he did for himself three years earlier. He told Steve he wished he could take his place, but both knew that wasn't possible.

Each recalled lighthearted moments too about their time in the hospital — a carryout pizza, a steak dinner smuggled in by one of the surgeons. The entire Harrold family also got to know the nursing staff quite well, and it wasn't uncommon for off duty nurses to stop by after family functions with fresh watermelon or a container full of leftovers from a graduation party.

"I really got to know the nurses quite well," said Ron. "I still stop in all the time and just see who is there and give them a big hug. I've made a few good friendships."

It's anyone's guess how many more weddings have been attended and how many more holiday celebrations have been hosted by patients who have received a second chance because of a heart transplant at Lutheran. What is certain, however, is that more than 250 local residents have returned home with the same sense of renewed hope that the Harrolds and their family carry with them each day.

For close to thirty years the heart transplant team at Lutheran has been fortunate to be in a position to help families overcome big odds so they may pass along the simple joys of life from one generation to the next. That probably wasn't more evident than the day Steve was discharged from Lutheran after his transplant.

"It was the most wonderful thing to walk out of the hospital, get into the vehicle and roll the window down to smell the fresh air on the way home," he remembered. "But I didn't go straight home! I wound up going to the county fair where my daughter was showing her horse."

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