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Commentary: Indiana State Fair Celebrating My Unnamed Hero in the Heartland


By Eric Pfeiffer

The Indiana State Fair, dubbed the greatest 17 days of summer here in the Hoosier State, begins this weekend. We celebrate many things at the fair, especially the young 4-Hers that put so much into their projects and animals. At this year’s fair, we’re also celebrating our “Heroes of the Heartland” presented by the Indiana Donor Network. While the youngsters will enjoy seeing their favorite superheroes like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Wonder Woman, and Batman, the State Fair will also be paying tribute to everyday Hoosiers who don’t need capes or superpowers.

This year’s fair is all about our Hoosier farmers (who feed the world), first responders, law officers, firefighters, and Armed Forces members past and present who save lives and protect our freedoms in our communities and around the world every day, and our teachers (who are underpaid and often underappreciated). In addition to those, there is one other type of hero being celebrated this year, and that is my personal hero. I just wish I knew his name.

After suffering a massive heart attack while I was in high school, my dad, Jeff, started feeling ill again in 2009. That’s when he went on the transplant list and had surgery to implant a mechanical pump, or LVAD, to keep his weak heart pumping while we waited. On December 23, 2009, we got the best early Christmas gift ever. He underwent a successful heart transplant at St. Vincent’s on 86th St. in Indianapolis. The doctors, nurses, coordinators, and everyone else involved at St. Vincent are certainly heroes of mine, but the person who decided to register as an organ donor is the real hero to my family.

My dad has written a number of letters attempting to reach out to the family of the heart he received. Those letters have gone unanswered thus far, and that’s ok. We don’t know their loss and wouldn’t want to put them through something they’re not ready to face. My dad, though, just wants to let them know, “What a grateful person I am for getting to see my family grow, and how sorry I am that they had to lose someone for my life to continue. It was an extremely strong heart and it still is to this day. I don’t know how I could ever thank them or repay them for anything like what they’ve given me.”

So, while you’re enjoying the livestock competitions, the food, the rides, the free concerts, and everything else going on at the fair, please consider becoming an organ donor. While my three young kids might think Spider-Man is cool and their hero, they’ll soon come to find that the fact that they ever got to meet their grandpa, let alone all the time they’ve now had to spend with him and get to know him, would have never happened without a real hero whose name we don’t know. You could be the reason some kid gets to meet their grandpa.

Learn more about becoming a donor by visiting indianadonornetwork.org, this year’s presenting sponsor of the Indiana State Fair.