SUMMERVILLE, S.C. – After growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, Don Holzheimer decided that firefighting was his ticket to the next chapter of his life.
Instead, it was his ticket to the doctor.
“I actually failed a physical,” said Holzheimer, who now lives in Summerville. But the setback would save his life. Don had kidney failure, and in 2006 his kidneys stopped functioning.
“My brother was the one of the first people tested,” recalls Holzheimer.
Don’s younger brother, Dave, turned out to be a perfect match. “As soon as they removed the kidney from his body and placed it into mine, it was working right day,” said Holzheimer.
Now Don and Dave share more than DNA and a last name.
“He’s pretty low key about the whole situation,” said Don of his brother, “but in the back of my mind, I’m pretty thankful he made the tough decision… if he wouldn’t have stepped forward, I don’t know what would have happened.”
The transplant introduced the Holzheimer brothers to “The Transplant Games of America,” a competition consisting of organ donors and recipients. Don and Dave have competed in four of the Games, dating back to 2006.
Next week, the brothers will make the trip back to their home state of Ohio, where they are preparing to compete in the doubles golf, darts, and cornhole. Medals would be nice, but the Games present a different kind of opportunity for Don.
“It’s one of the few times where you can actually look around and say ‘boy all these people, they know what i’ve been through.”