Transplant patient's family: 'Every year forward we're going to be celebrating this gift' - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

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Transplant patient's family: 'Every year forward we're going to be celebrating this gift'

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SPOKANE, Wash. - The Fourth of July isn't traditionally a time for exchanging gifts, but a family from western Washington says they got the greatest gift of all this year: life.

Nate Gunderson's family says an organ donor restored their independence after Nate waited 50 days on a transplant list for a new heart.

Follow Genevieve's blog 'Nate and His Troubled Heart'


"I don't know how much longer we could have waited truthfully," said his wife Genevieve.

Nate Gunderson, 31, was the picture of health before his family said a bacterial infection nearly killed him earlier this year. Doctors said a new heart was his only option.

His family turned his story into a drive to increase the number of organ donors across the country hoping potential donors would realize anyone could be in need.

"We never thought this would happen," said Genevieve in early June.  "He ate all his vegetables, he drank muscle milk every morning. He was the picture of health."

Doctors walked into Nate's hospital room on the evening of July 4 and told him to stop eating.

They were instructions the family had heard before.

The family had been through a dry run twice before this spring when potential donors were found. The previous times yielded organs that were less than a perfect match, but this time, it was different. Nate's operation started hours later.
The Donate Life Today Registry is a confidential database of donation wishes to be carried out at the time of death. 


"Thank God this gracious soul checked the box on her driver's license that said she wanted to be an organ donor because she saved Nate's life," said Genevieve.

Medical policies prevent the family from knowing where the heart is from, but they believe it was from a female donor outside the area.

More than 100,000 people across the country are waiting for a transplant of some kind, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation web site.

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