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As Ron Hotovy takes his daily medication, it serves as a reminder that the lungs he takes every breath with once belonged to someone else.

The corn and soybean farmer lives just south of David City and dealt with severe breathing problems for many years. While attending a lung disease study at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, a doctor pulled him aside and gave him the news that his lungs were completely failing. Hotovy was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that causes scarring in the lung. This thickened, stiff scar tissue makes it more difficult for the lungs to absorb oxygen and is irreversible.

For some, it progresses slowly, but others rapidly. For Hotovy, it was the latter. His lungs were deteriorating and a double-lung transplant was needed to save his life. He immediately was hospitalized and transferred to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri on Sept. 13, 2018. It was then he said the waiting game started.

Hotovy’s life depended on the donation of a pair of lungs with the right blood type and size. He was moved toward the top of the list because his health had failed so quickly that he was huffing and puffing after walking just 10 feet. Some people at the hospital had been waiting six months for a match, but Hotovy got lucky. After waiting 10 days, a match came in and the eight-hour operation took place on Sept. 23.

“Anytime you think you’re not going to see the next morning's light, (it's got to) be scary to some people,” Hotovy said.“It just happened to work that I fit the bill as to what donor they had ... Once in a while, you have to be lucky and blessed.”

After the surgery, Hotovy wasn't out of the woods just yet. He contracted a virus and was placed in intensive care for two weeks. On Dec. 11, he was released from the hospital and moved into a duplex nearby. Due to being bedridden for so long, his muscles had deteriorated and he couldn’t raise his arms high enough to feed himself. Finally, after undergoing months of physical therapy, he was released from the hospital on Jan. 28.

Ron’s wife, Kathy, visited him every single day he was in the hospital. She said she appreciates everyone who helped care for Ron in his time of need, especially the doctors who treated him.

“It’s a blessing they had a place for him to go. It was a good place to be for him,” she said of Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “We’re very thankful to family and friends, everybody praying and being there for us.”

Hotovy said he’s grateful for the second chance at life and for more time to spend with his wife, his two daughters and the rest of his friends and family. Hotovy doesn’t know who his new lungs once belonged to, and he said he prefers not to. However, he is very appreciative and made sure to send a thank you card to the donor's family.

“Very fortunate that the donor family, the fact that he or she, whoever it was, did see forward enough to donate their organs to the transplant program,” Hotovy said. “I just feel very fortunate and grateful that they did donate, it’s quite a program.”

Now home, Hotovy continues resting, rebuilding strength and stamina. He is currently on a regimen of anti-rejection drugs and other antibiotics/antivirus medication. His main priority is catching up with all the people he has missed.

“The people at St. Louis were great, but it’s nice to see familiar faces all the time,” Hotovy said. “I feel very fortunate for the thoughts, prayers and support the community has shown towards me.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News-Review.

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