LITTLE ROCK, ARK. (KTHV) -- The need is real and eye-opening. About 20 people die in the U.S. every day waiting for transplants because of a shortage of donated organs.
Mike Strong, 61, has been a patient at Baptist Health since January. He spent 133 days in the intensive care unit.
"It would get depressing at times," said Strong, so he'd pass the time doing this walking the halls of the hospital. "I got where I was walking 20 laps a day. I had 1,880 laps I kept track of."
The grandfather of three had a heart attack a few years ago, and without a transplant, Strong wouldn't survive.
"It's depressing when they come and say, 'We've got a heart.' Then they come back and say, 'We're sorry Mike, it just wasn't what we wanted.'"
That situation happened twice. Then in May, news came. He'd finally get a transplant. The surgery took several hours.
His doctor, John Ransom is Surgical Director of the Heart Transplant Program, was on the team that performed the state's first heart transplant in 1989.
"I would like to have seen it come to a finish a lot quicker, but because of our delay in donations, or lack of donations, it's still rewarding to see him do well," said Ransom.
In the U.S., about 119,000 people are on the transplant waiting list. Eighteen of them die every day.
"When there is an unfortunate death, and they have the opportunity to donate a heart and make a big difference in someone else's life, they really need to consider that," explained Ransom.
Organs and tissues from a single donor can be used to benefit more than 50 people. For Strong, he's hoping the statistics are a call to action for Arkansans.
"I'm all for organ donation. It's just giving life to someone else, which I think is great," said Stron.
The road to recovery will be a long one. There will be countless doctor's visits and a special diet. But for now, the emotion is pure thankfulness, gratitude for his donor, and especially thankful for more time with his grandkids.
"At least I figure I will be here for another 20 or 30 years," he laughed.
If you want to give someone hope for a future and a second chance at life, sign up to become an organ donor.