Rollie Merriman speaking to more than 1,000 people during a National Kidney Foundation fundraiser in Columbus
Photo courtesy of: Rollie Merriman
Merriman models his "I gave the gift of LOVE" T-shirt at work
Photographer: Brad Chaffin
Merriman being interviewed by Channel 10 news in Columbus
Photo courtesy of: Rollie Merriman
Oct 27, 2010
By Emily Maddern
"Classified Information" is a ongoing Compass series that shares the interesting stories of Ohio University classified employees outside of work.
National statistics say an average of 18 people die each day while waiting for an organ transplant.
Rollie Merriman, storekeeper for the Department of Chemistry, decided to do something about it by donating one of his kidneys to a stranger in need.
Merriman was inspired to become a living donor after seeing a public service announcement about altruistic donation, which is the donation of an organ to someone who is not biologically or emotionally related to the donor.
"When I found out you could just do it, that's when I started applying and getting forms," he said. "I've always felt like I was very blessed health wise and I thought ‘why not give to someone who was less fortunate than me?'"
Merriman contacted Lifeline of Ohio, an independent, non-profit organization that promotes and coordinates the donation of human organs and tissue for transplantation, and began undergoing a series of physical and psychological tests to determine whether he was fit for donation.
After testing was completed, doctors at The Ohio State University Medical Center began searching for a transplant candidate match for Merriman's kidney.
After only a few weeks, doctors determined that he was a match for Melanie Hall, an Ohio woman suffering from kidney failure.
"The timing couldn't have been better, because she was very ill when she was in the hospital," Merriman said about getting paired with Hall. "I told Mel, ‘God must have really wanted you to have my kidney.' It just worked out perfectly."
Because living donation involves anesthesia and major surgery, there is a possibility of complications and risks.
According to the brochure "Living Donation: Information You Need to Know," which is published by the United Network for Organ Sharing, surgical complication can include pain, infection, blood loss, injury to surrounding tissues or organs and in some cases death. Possible risks of kidney donation may include hypertension, hernia and organ impairment.
Despite the risks and a small case of the jitters, Merriman said he was committed to finish what he had started.
"I was a little nervous. It was the first time I had ever been to the hospital," he admitted. "But I thought ‘this is something that's really going to change someone's life. I can suck it up.'"
Merriman's kidney was successfully transplanted into Hall's body in August at The Ohio State University Medical Center and they were able to meet shortly after the surgery.
He said that meeting Hall and her friends and family was very emotional and has made him appreciate life. Since the operation, the two have become friends and talk several times a week. In fact, Hall will celebrate Thanksgiving at Merriman's home in Athens.
"I knew I was blessed and lucky beforehand, but I really feel that way now," Merriman said. "You never know how lucky you are until you meet someone like Mel. It's the ultimate high."
After the surgery, Merriman spent a few weeks recovering and returned to work at the start of fall quarter. He said now he doesn't feel like he's had an operation.
When asked if he felt like a hero, Merriman humbly said that he is no different than anyone else.
"The doctor's and the nurses and the staff at the donation center and Mel and her friends – those are the heroes."
Merriman, who plans to retire from his job next September, said that he would is a kidney advocate for life and hopes that his story inspires others to consider altruistic donation.
Last weekend, Merriman served as one of the two keynote speakers at a National Kidney Foundation of Ohio fundraiser in downtown Columbus. He said the event, which featured a 1.5 mile walk, drew more than 1,000 people and raised more than $100,000.
"Since I've already given a kidney, all I can do now is promote kidney donation to the best of my ability," he said.