Meet Ron Packard: Liver Recipient and Two-Time Transplant Games Participant
In 1985, at the age of 19, Ron Packard was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis. Within nine years, his liver began to fail and Ron was unable to drive or work; he was placed on the transplant waiting list in early October 1994. On October 14, 1994, Ron received the life-saving call and the liver transplant one day later.
Ron had one really good week and six very bad months before needing another liver transplant. On April 12, 1995, Ron received the second gift of life and has had the same liver for 21 years. Although the second donor is anonymous, Ron has some information about his first donor, Andrea. Andrea was 27 at the time of her passing and had a 7-year-old son named Tony. When the tragedy happened, Andrea’s husband knew his wife’s donation wishes because they had the conversation earlier that spring after Andrea’s niece received a liver transplant. Ron says, “Every day my donors are part of everything I do. If it hadn’t been for the first liver transplant, I might not have lived long enough for the second transplant.”
After receiving his transplants, Ron and his wife have been able to fulfill their dream of owning a home and raising a family. They have, a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old, James and Joy, and they just celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary. “I get to do all the wonderful things that parents hope to do and want to do with their kids. I have had 22 extra Christmases, birthdays and holidays with my parents, nieces and nephews, cousins and in-laws. I’ve been a part of their lives now for more than two decades because of the transplants,” says Ron.
Thanks to the donation, Ron is also able to work a full-time job and is healthy enough to start a lot of home improvement projects around the house. “Every day I wake up and my life is devoted to helping those who are still waiting,” says Ron. “I’m alive to get out of bed in the morning. A lot of people can’t. That’s a thankful moment.”
Ron is looking forward to participating in the 2016 Transplant Games and being a part of the experience again. Ron competed in swimming events in 2008 and 2010. “The great thing about the games is you don’t have to be a world-class athlete to participate,” says Ron. “The games show that transplants make a difference and organ donation gives people their lives back.”
Ron’s favorite part of the games is the opening ceremony. “The last individuals to come into the games at the opening ceremony are the donor families,” says Ron. “When the donor families come in, there are standing ovations and rounds of applause. It’s a chance to honor these families in ways they may never have been honored before.” For the 2016 Transplant Games, Ron plans to participate in the trivia challenge and possibly table tennis.
Ron Packard Quick Facts:
Lives: Columbus, Ohio
Connection to donation community: Two-time liver recipient
Transplant Games sports: Ron expects to participate in the trivia challenge and maybe table tennis.
Favorite professional sport: NFL football/Bengals
If he could spend the day with any athlete – dead, alive or fictional – it would be: Jesse Owens. “Jesse Owens embodies the idea that never giving up can lead you to places in life you once only dreamed were possible. As transplant recipients, we too face challenges and I would love the opportunity to learn how Jesse overcame his to compete in a sport he loved, against the best athletes in the world,” says Ron.
Favorite athlete: Archie Griffin. In 1973, Ron was a sick 7-year-old at Nationwide Children’s Hospital when the Ohio State football players came into the hospital for a visit. “To have Archie come in and spend time with us is something I’ve never forgotten. I have a vivid memory of that 40 years later,” says Ron.
Favorite quote: “Life’s too short to wait in line twice for bacon bits.” –Ron Packard