Athlete of the Week: Don Holzheimer
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Don Holzheimer's life was on the line when he found out his kidneys were failing him. His brother stepped up to give him a life-saving transplant.
But that surgery set the stage for Holzheimer to compete in the Transplant Games of America.
Holzheimer's live was both extended and forever changed in one day.
"September 17 of 2007, we had a successful live transplant. He didn't do it for the accolades, he just did it so I can still be alive," he said.
The life-saving gift from his younger brother gave rise to a new passion in the Transplant Games, a national Olympics-style event held every two years.
"I'd heard about people talking about these transplant games and I thought 'That would be pretty neat,'" Holzheimer said.
In 2008, Holzheimer went to Pittsburgh and won two bronze medals at his first Games -- just six months after his transplant.
"My brother was there, my family was able to be there and one of my medals was presented to me by my brother. It never would have been possible if he hadn't given me his kidney," Holzheimer said.
Later this year, Holzheimer headed to Houston where he will compete in his third Transplant Games. He will be in the pool, on the track, and in the shot put.
"I just realized how far I've come. It was tough being on dialysis. Anyone who's gone through a life-changing illness, you don't realize how short life can be. For the transplant to be so successful, it's unbelievable. I'm more healthy now than I was 20 years ago," he said.
A now-healthy Holzheimer is pushing himself in order to push others, an inspiration for the nearly 120,000 Americans still waiting for donors.
"It's a blessing to know I'm healthy. I can be an example to people out there and show them you can step forward," Holzheimer said.
It's a step forward and a fresh start, all from a life-giving gift from his brother.