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Posted on Sat, Jul 10, 2010 : 6:03 a.m.

Ann Arbor lung transplant patient to take advantage of second chance at U.S. Transplant Games

By Tina Reed


John Gundrum takes his girlfriend's dog, Riker, for his daily walk around their apartment complex on Wednesday afternoon.

Melanie Maxwell I

As far as John Gundrum is concerned, he has two birthdays. His first was more than 52 years ago.

And his second?

That was two years ago, one day in September when he got the call telling him doctors found a pair of lungs to replace his own diseased pair. He’d once been a robust man and owner of a local roofing company, but developed severe emphysema that made it impossible for him to even climb a ladder.

“You appreciate life like you wouldn’t believe,” Gundrum said. “A lot of stuff just isn’t important anymore, but little stuff is important like seeing my little nephews.”


  • Those interested in donating to John Gundrum’s effort or Team Michigan’s efforts to travel to the U.S. Transplant games, visit:
  • If you would like to register to be an organ donor in Michigan, call 1-800-482-4881 or visit:

At the end of the month, Gundrum plans to join about 1,500 other organ transplant recipients from around the country in Wisconsin for the U.S. Transplant Games.

Sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation, the weeklong event features athletic competitions between organ transplant recipients. In the last games held in 2008, more than 1,300 athletes and more than 5,700 families of organ donors or other supporters attended.

“The big draw is a lot of participants want to show the success of organ donation and that, after going through something like that, it’s possible to perform successfully and live healthy productive lives,” said Michael Steigmeyer, spokesman for the National Kidney Foundation Michigan.

For Gundrum, life before the lung transplant meant he was constantly hooked to an oxygen tank by a 50-foot long tether. Doctors believed he’d developed his lung disease from the years since his childhood spent stirring and breathing in roofing tar in the family business. He had a severe case, and his options were limited, they said.

He visited the hospital at least 18 times in about two years, including one late summer afternoon in 2008 when he’d been enjoying a fishing trip with his nephew and friend, Jeff Eisele.

They were on the pontoon boat when Gundrum realized he was running short on oxygen. By the time they were able to dock and Gundrum had begun walking to shore, he was completely out of breath and fearful for his life. “It was a real eye opener to how bad his lungs were, Eisele said. “Looking back, he could have lost his life.”

Finally, in September 2008, Gundrum received the call on his cell phone telling him the hospital had a pair of lungs that might work for a transplant for him. “Are you ready?” he was asked. 

Hours later, official word came that Gundrum would be getting new lungs. "I let out a cheer and the next thing I knew it was Sunday afternoon. I woke up to a nurse yelling 'Breathe!' I got my lungs."


A snapshot of Ann Arbor resident John Gundrum, who depended on using an oxygen tank before he received his lung transplant in 2008.

Courtesy photo

For Gundrum, it was life changing. He'd been unable to work and had to close the business in 2005, but had been volunteering and participating in a support group for people who needed transplants. After, he said he felt a renewed sense to help others, particularly those who are still waiting for organ donations.

“I feel like I owe something,” Gundrum said. “I’d be pretty selfish if I got my lung transplant and didn’t give back.”

The change has been noticeable to Jeff Eisele and his wife, Brenda, who cared for him after his surgery. 

"It’s amazing to see the transformation in him with how he approaches life. He’s really taken to giving back to people more than he ever did,” said Jeff Eisele. "I am a registered donor as a result of John. That’s an example of what John has done."

Gundrum is not the exception among organ transplant recipients - rather, he’s closer to the rule for many, said Gift of Life Michigan spokeswoman Jennifer Tislerics.

“They are so appreciative of that second chance and go off to do amazing things for their families and communities,” Tislerics said. “They do not take a single moment for granted.”

Annually, 25,000 people get organ transplants, and about 6,000 people die waiting for a transplant.

In Michigan, about 3,000 people are waiting for transplants. Gift of Life Michigan has been among groups lobbying for a Michigan law that would require the state to explicitly ask drivers at Secretary of State offices whether they want to be on the state's donor registry.

“Right now, we rank 42nd in the nation for drivers who are registered organ donors," Tislerics said. "That weighs heavily on the minds of people who are still waiting for transplants.”

Tina Reed covers health and the environment for You can reach her at, call her at 734-623-2535 or find her on Twitter @TreedinAA.


Gift of Life Michigan

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 10:53 a.m.

We'd like to clarify a few of the points made in the comments section: Signing the back of your license is not how it's done anymore. In fact, Michigan residents who sign up on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry ( or 800-482-4881) will be provided by the Secretary of State a red heart donor emblem that goes above the photo on the front of your license or ID card. Presumed consent does not exist in the USA, although it does in a few other countries (primarily in Europe). The idea is brought up in various state legislatures from time to time, but has never been passed in this country. There are different rules for organ donation than blood donation - so even those who cannot donate blood can often donate organs. There is no medical reason not to register your decision to be an organ donor. Even people with Hepatitis, HIV, diabetes, lupus and other serious illnesses can sometimes donate organs. People with metasticized cancer can sometimes donate corneas and give sight to the blind (corneas are avascular and do not get or spread cancer). There are no age limits, either - we've had donors in their 90s! All major religions in the US either support organ donation or support your right to make your own decision. Thank you for your support of donation! Wonderful article, Tina. Jennifer Tislerics Corporate Communications Gift of Life Michigan

Matt Cooper1

Mon, Jul 12, 2010 : 11:59 p.m.

1bit: No, the beauty is that I don't care who you are, or what you think you know. My experiences are mine from working in critical care medicine for over 9 years and dealing with transplant issues extremely frequently during that time. You could be a med school professor and it wouldn't change what I've learned, seen and experienced in my time there. Secondly, the bottom line is that there is a HUGE difference between the state asking my permission to donate and assuming (presuming) that I want to donate regardless of whether I wanted to or not. And that's exactly what "presumed consent" means. Under this insane ideology, when I die, in the absence of documentation that I don't want to donate tissues or organs, the state would have the right to take whatever organs/tissues they feel like taking. It means that the state would presume that I would give consent for harvesting organs simply because I existed on this planet. The burden of proving wether or not I wanted to ever allow anyone to harvest my organs should NOT be on me, or my kin. It should be on the state to prove that I did, in fact, wish to donate. jarhead: Increase organ donation seminars, classes. Have colleges, hospitals and other similar organizations step up their efforts at disseminating information about the importance of donating. Make television commercials and public service announcements in support of organ donation. Ask news outlets if they would run free advertisement in favor of organ donation. Also, you said "You dragged in religion, your car, your house and kids to the discussion. Many conspieracy theorist would agree with you I imagine. Your rights are safe, there is no bill on the floor." Do you not understand analogy? Or is condescension appropriate here? Yes, I 'dragged in religion'. This is because this is a very important point that you seem to wish to just dismiss because it's not important to you. It is however, very, very important to me. Especially when it's my organs we are talking about. Yes I 'dragged in' my car, my house. Do you not understand that the state has no right to just show up with a tow truck and haul away my car after I die, and that they have no more right to show up with a surgeon and haul away my heart? Or lungs? Or liver? I'm glad you got your life saved by a tissue donation. I truly am. But that doesn't give you the right to assume that people should have their tissues taken post mortem unless they have previously signed a declaration declining organ harvesting. You want to rob graves, move to any of the other countries that supposedly have this idiotic "presumed consent" on their books.


Mon, Jul 12, 2010 : 6:03 p.m.

Matt I totally understand your point. I totally understand that organs and tissues are mine alone. We all do. As I posted before, "I think what Dave Undis and Bill Sloan are trying to point out is a great many lives are ended simply because a great many organs are buried". There is a huge gap between what is needed and what is offered. How do we bridge that gap? I say people are apathetic. You said, ".......that I must be burdened with having to sign some gov't forms.....". Isn't that the problem right now, but in reverse? People don't want to be burdened to sign a form to donate. You dragged in religion, your car, your house and kids to the discussion. Many conspieracy theorist would agree with you I imagine. Your rights are safe, there is no bill on the floor. So I'll ask again, "So what would your plan be to inform and motivate people to act?". Maybe instead of the form on the back of the drivers license(that is printed on top of the plastic and wears off), it could be on the front. Maybe when you get your license you would declare at that time and sign a form and it would say "DONOR" on the front and all your info would be in the state's data-base for hospitals to access, if you died in an accident or something. You know, which organs are available from you, which tissues. This would help people make a decision yes or no and be done with it. Those that don't drive could sign up at the Sec of States office if so motivated. Still we could get more people on board. My experience was with a live donor. Those who join the bone marrow registry are contacted when a match is found, and they have the right of refusall even after walking into the hospital. No one forces them or holds up their signature in their face or tows away their car. I was dead 9 years ago, but someone cared.

Matt Cooper1

Mon, Jul 12, 2010 : 3:08 p.m.

jarhead: And you missed my point entirely (or perhaps chose to ignore it altogether) that the choice of wether my organs or tissues stay within MY body or not post mortem is MY choice to make and MINE ONLY. And there is no justification for making it so that I must be burdened with having to sign some government form saying I don't want my organs or tissues removed. There is no, nor should there be, any presumption that my organs/tissues belong to anyone other than ME, nor that the decision to remove them should be of any interest to the state without MY permission prior to death. Meaning, they are MY organs and tissues NOT the states, and if the state, federal government, hospital or any other interested parties wish to seize same organs and/or tissues for removal and transplantation from MY body, the impetus is, and of right should be, on the state, federal government, hospital or other interested parties to seek out MY permission to remove them. The onus is not on ME to seek out a form stating that I wish to keep them, because guess what? THEY ARE ALREADY MINE!!!! Secondly, religous considerations, or the lack thereof, do not allow the state to remove any part of MY body without MY prior permission that are not being used for criminal investigation or that are otherwise required by law to be removed. You seem to think that it's perfectly okay to shift the responsibility onto me for declining harvesting MY organs rather than making it the responsibility of those agencies to seek out MY permission prior to death. This is morally wrong, ethically impermissible, and at this time flatly illegal. I cannot understand why it's so difficult for you to understand thats any organs or tissues that come from MY body are MY PROPERTY, and that the state has no more right to take those tissues from MY BODY than they do to simply show up with a tow truck and take my car.

Rork Kuick

Mon, Jul 12, 2010 : 10:03 a.m.

'Nor is it ethically justifiable to say to me, or anyone else "Yes, Mr. Cooper, we are going to cut open your body and remove whatever organs we choose, UNLESS you sign a document specifically stating otherwise".' I could accept that as ethical, perhaps with next-of-kin or such also having to agree (unless you sign documents definitely showing you want to donate). I think I can argue a compelling interest for the state. Spain, Austria, Belgium, have it, and they aren't famous as barbarian or unethical countries. Search "opt out organ donation Spain". Let's get more folks signing their driver's licenses. We can all agree to that immediately.


Mon, Jul 12, 2010 : 5:45 a.m.

Matt You missed my point. The masses don't care or are not motivated anough to expend any energy to help others by donating whether alive or dead. They may say so, but fail to do the paper work. "So therefor we should just totally disregard their religious preferences? Simply because we don't think they cared enough?" Those are not my words, those are yours. I said those that feel strongly about this (whatever the reason) WOULD fill out waivers. And what religions are we talking about? Yes there are a few that won't let their parishoners even give or recieve blood. However those are the extreme. Christ healed people that were deseased, blind and brought back some from death. What lesson was the bible trying to teach? What's moral about a church telling people NOT to help your fellow man with your dead body parts? This wasn't even an issue back then. It is modern science and medicine that makes this possible. We are an evolved society. So what would your plan be to inform and motivate people to act? Or would it be more comfortable to leave all just as it is?

Matt Cooper1

Sun, Jul 11, 2010 : 7:20 p.m.

Bill Sloan: I'm wondering which states you are referring to. According to my research there isn't a sinlge one in these United States that does have anything even close to a "presumed consent" law. Can you name one?

Bill Sloan

Sun, Jul 11, 2010 : 12:32 p.m.

Very satisfying to see all this dialog on the transplantation issue! Anything that brings this important issue into the public eye is positive regardless of whether the reasoning is informed, uninformed, self-centered, humanitarian, materialistic or generous. As for the "presumed consent" idea that I raised, of course many safeguards would have to be in place to safeguard those who, for whatever reason, would not like to donate useable organs upon their death. My study of the issue shows that in areas where presumed consent is considered the overwhelming majority of citizens line up on the side of the humanitarian option. Also, there are very few religions that prohibit donation after death. Those that do could make sure that their followers are informed. There is a whole lot of information on the internet for those who are interested.

Matt Cooper

Sun, Jul 11, 2010 : 9:27 a.m.

jarhead: "If a person is set against donating, do to religion or whatever, then they would be passionate and motivated enough to sign a waiver. The general masses are not so motivated. Nor even care." So therefore we shold just totally disregard their religious preferences? Simply because we don't think they cared enough?

Matt Cooper

Sun, Jul 11, 2010 : 9:20 a.m.

1bit: Actually, I work in the critical care medicine unit at the University of Michigan, and we deal with organ transplantation issues every day of the week. I am very familiar with the organ donation process, perhaps even more so than you think you are. However, you are quite wrong in your assesment of there not being a 'me or my' in anything. In fact there is. This is why we protect patient confidentiality even after the patient has expired. This is because the patient, even after they die, has a right to privacy. This is not U of M policy. This is the law. To illustrate, I would refer you to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), And you are also quite wrong about what happens to MY body after I die. If I choose to be creamated, that is my right. If I choose to be buried, that, too, is my right. And donating organs and/or tissues is, as well, my right. The point here is that it is MY RIGHT TO CHOOSE. The state has no right to choose for me, nor to infer that I would presume to donate organs simply because I exist in this world. All of these decisions are made by ME. And all are legally enforceable through the end of life care orders that I issue, or through the person I choose to designate as my Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). It is NOT the right of the state, the hospital or the federal government to determine for me which, if any, organs or tissues I might want to donate. Nor is it ethically justifiable to say to me, or anyone else "Yes, Mr. Cooper, we are going to cut open your body and remove whatever organs we choose, UNLESS you sign a document specifically stating otherwise". The choice of whether or not I donate organs or tissues is MINE. Not yours. Not the State of Michigans.

Somewhat Concerned

Sun, Jul 11, 2010 : 8:56 a.m.

Mr. Sloan, why just presume consent? Why not presume that anyone entering a hospital is dead and consents? Why not presume that anyone related to a person who needs an organ consents to donate, even if alive? Why not presume whatever it takes to get the level of organ donation up?

John Gundrum

Sun, Jul 11, 2010 : 8:52 a.m.

Thanks Tina for doing this story and Jeff and Jarhead for your nice comments


Sun, Jul 11, 2010 : 6:01 a.m.

I think what Dave Undis and Bill Sloan are trying to point out is a great many lives that are ended simply because a great many organs are buried. People may say they agree that organ donation is a good thing, but are lazy and won't even sign their driver's license or make their families aware of its importance. Ask around your own friends and family. A person may believe in donating however if they don't declare, and their next of kin is against it, then their organs are wasted. It is the next of kin that determines if a child has the right to recieve or give. I've always signed my driver's license, but never thought about donating bone marrow until I needed it. And so it goes with a great many people, until their children or grandchildren may need an organ. If a person is set against donating, do to religion or whatever, then they would be passionate and motivated enough to sign a waiver. The general masses are not so motivated. Nor even care.

Matt Cooper

Sat, Jul 10, 2010 : 9 p.m.

A couple of things thyat I find quite disturbing: 1. David Undis - "There is another good way to put a big dent in the organ shortage if you dont agree to donate your organs when you die, then you go to the back of the waiting list if you ever need an organ to live." This is ridiculous bordering on insane! It amounts to nothing more than biological blackmail. You should be ashamed of your strong-arming tactics! 2. Bill Sloan - "The issue of low organ donation numbers could be solved if Michigan would change to a "presumed consent" policy whereby instead of a person having to sigh up as a donor it would be "presumed" that that was their intention unless they opted out in a way similar to the one in place now where people have to opt in." If I die, should the state, or hospital, or whatever organization that wants to take my organs of other biological tissues also presume that I meant to also turn over my car? How about my house? My children? If not then why should there be a presumption that they can take my organs and tissues without first obtaining consent to do so? These are parts of MY body. They belong to ME, and ME alone. They are not property of the hospital, nor of the government. Nor is it for you or any other human being, organization or hospital to decide that my organs should be taken from my body unless I explicitly state otherwise. This is a moronic idea from top to bottom. I am all for organ transplantation and donorship, however, when you try to coerce someone, against their will, to donate organs you cross many, many legal and ethical boundaries. As an example, with this silly idea of "presumed consent", what if I have religious beliefs that preclude organ donation, and yet I somehow forget to sign the necessary papers saying to the government "no, you are not allowed to cut open my body and remove my organs". Why should I have to seek out some government employee to sign such a document in the first place? Who or what gives you or anybody else the right to dictate to me what must be done with MY body post mortem? What gives you or anyone else the right to make that decision for me after I die? No one has that right BUT ME!

Jeff Irwin

Sat, Jul 10, 2010 : 2:42 p.m.

Nice story about John Gundrum - he's a great guy and a good friend to have. It seems obvious to me that the Secretary of State should ask all drivers to be organ donors. They've definitely improved the signage and I like the changes they have made to reflect organ donation on the license; but they could go further. Asking should be the easy, first step. Thanks to Bill Sloan for bringing up presumed consent. I don't think any other states have it so far. From my research, New York has talked about it before but very little serious consideration is being paid to this issue. It is a somewhat ghoulish topic. Bill, can you tell me what other states have this policy? With the appropriate safeguards for religious, family or other objections, I think we could develop a working system of presumed consent for organ donations.


Sat, Jul 10, 2010 : 1:08 p.m.

Why not pay people to donate their kidneys? We pay them for blood donations. Besides, it's their kidney after all so why not a little incentive? You only need one anyway. Besides it's more moral than 'presumed consent', because you get to choose while you're still alive. SAVE A LIFE AND GET PAID!!! I'm personally offering one massive testicle for sale, guaranteed to pump out the juice when and where you need it done! $1,500,000 and its yours!

David J Undis

Sat, Jul 10, 2010 : 10:20 a.m.

John Gundrum was very lucky to get a Lungs transplant. There are now over 108,000 people on the National Transplant Waiting List, with over 50% of these people dying before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year. There is another good way to put a big dent in the organ shortage if you dont agree to donate your organs when you die, then you go to the back of the waiting list if you ever need an organ to live. Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. About 50% of the organs transplanted in the United States go to people who havent agreed to donate their own organs when they die. Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 13,900 members, including 409 members in Michigan. Please contact me Dave Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers if your readers would like to learn more about our innovative approach to increasing the number of organ donors. I can arrange interviews with some of our local members if youre interested. My email address is My phone number is 615-351-8622.

Dave Barnes

Sat, Jul 10, 2010 : 10:03 a.m.

Whilst I agree that "presumed consent" policy would help with organ donation numbers I would be interested to know how the medical authorities would be able to determine whether the donor had any conditions that would make their organs unsuitable for transplant? Whilst this is probably a concern today I imagine that it would be even more so if "presumed consent" was enacted. As an example, the American Red Cross will not allow me to donate blood (& I assume this would extend to donating organs) as I lived in England for 40 years. From the Red Cross website..... "Persons who have spent long periods of time in countries where "mad cow disease" is found are not eligible to donate. This requirement is related to concerns about variant Creutzfeld Jacob Disease (vCJD)"


Sat, Jul 10, 2010 : 6:32 a.m.

Bill Sloan----Thanks for the info. I was not aware of other states' "presumed consent policy". I like it! If someone can use anything of mine they are welcome to it. Glad to have you around also. I too had a transplant 9 years ago but from a living doner. it was bone marrow. I'm thankful EVERYDAY to see my children and grandchildren. The simplelist things in life are free----children's laughter.


Sat, Jul 10, 2010 : 6:19 a.m.

Congratulations John. Glad to have you around man. This is a reminder for all of us to fill out your doner notice on your drivers license and make your family aware of your intentions. It could save someones life someday. OOHRAH!

Bill Sloan

Sat, Jul 10, 2010 : 6:17 a.m.

The issue of low organ donation numbers could be solved if Michigan would change to a "presumed consent" policy whereby instead of a person having to sigh up as a donor it would be "presumed" that that was their intention unless they opted out in a way similar to the one in place now where people have to opt in. This policy is in place in several countries and states. I was fortunate to receive a cadavaric kidney two years ago, but there are many on the wait list who might not be if more Michiganians would express their likely intentions to donate. The change to a "presumed consent" policy would help, as would directly asking at Secretary of State offices. Repealing the motorcycle helmet law would help too! Kidding.