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Berkley Transplant Recipient Uses New Heart for a Good Cause

Though he's never gotten to meet or thank the donor family that helped save his life, Mike Roman hopes to make them proud this summer.

Berkley’s Mike Roman has the bowling game of a lifetime coming up.

The 55-year-old man preparing for his spot in the mixed doubles and singles bowling games on Team Michigan in the summer athletic event he’s registered for.

Sure, the ’74 graduate is a solid bowler, and has been since his younger years. If fact, he’s been bowling since he was just 3 years old and had an average of 185 in his last league during the year 2000.

But this game will be about showing off more than skill. Roman will be showing the world, and himself, that he’s a strong, healthy and very proud heart transplant recipient during his first time participating in the Transplant Games of America.

More than a game

“The Transplant Games of America is an opportunity to do three things,” Roman explained. “By just being able to compete in the games, it shows that organ donation works. They are also a way that people from around the country can get together and show their support for donation. And, maybe most importantly, it is our way of thanking our donors and donor families.”

The multi-sport festival will take place in Grand Rapids this July and is open to athletes who have undergone life-saving transplant surgeries and living donors – those who have donated organs such as a kidney or bone marrow and are still living. The event also honors and celebrates donors and their families.

Roman is part of Team Michigan, which has nearly 200 recipients, living donors and supporters. It's all new to him, but he said he’s ready to just take it all in.

“Since this is my first time competing in the games, I am looking forward to the entire experience and watching others compete,” he said.

“Since my donor family wishes to remain anonymous, I look forward to seeing the interaction between other recipients and their donor families. I have been told that entering the opening ceremony is very moving and no doubt the donor family celebration will also be.”

The day everything changed

Roman, father of two daughters ages 30 and 22, became ill in February 2008. The doctors believed he had pneumonia and admitted him into for a routine MRI of his lungs.

During the assessment, doctors told him he was having a heart attack.

“Other than the congestion in my lungs, I had no other symptoms,” he explained. “After they were unsuccessful in trying to open my arteries with stents, it was concluded that my heart had weakened to the point that I was in congestive heart failure and only a new heart could help me.”

Roman was accepted into a trial program at the University of Michigan that allowed him to receive a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), called the Heartmate II, after just 11 days at Beaumont. But that was only a temporary solution — basically the bridge to getting a transplant.

From there, he was placed on a transplant list where he was to wait for a suitable heart to become available to him. In June 2009, after 15 months on the list, he received his new heart and has been touched by the gesture of organ donation ever since.

“Ever since my transplant, I have become involved in supporting and promoting organ and tissue donation. I, along with my wife, are volunteers at Gift of Life Michigan and have worked at events to sign up new donors,” he said.

Now, he’ll be supporting the cause by bowling side-by-side with his sister-in-law, who donated a kidney to her son. He’s helping others get involved, too.

Your chance to show support

On Sunday, a bowling fundraiser will take place at Sunnybrook Lanes in Sterling Heights to benefit Team Michigan Bowling. Roman said the team needs to raise money for uniforms and team pins to exchange, like at the Olympics.

Plus, the event will help educate people on the matter of organ donation.

“People need to support our cause because it saves lives,” Roman said, adding that one person can save up to eight lives.

“Nobody wants to see another person pass away, but if their passing can help others, isn't that the greatest gift you can give?”

Bowling will begin at 1 p.m. and the cost is a $20 donation per person or $15 for children 12 and under. The event will include two 9-Pin No-Tap games, shoes, food and drinks. All proceeds will support Team Michigan at the Transplant Games of America.

For more information, visit TransplantGamesofAmerica.org or TeamMItransplant.com. If you'd like more information on organ donation, visit organdonor.gov.

danaashby April 20, 2012 at 11:48 AM
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