JIM McElroy started experiencing heart problems when he was in his early 30s.
His heart got so bad that he was just days away from being hooked up to a mechanical heart and a potential lengthy hospital stay until a match could be found.
However, through the miracle of life, McElroy, now 60, is living life to the fullest thanks to LifeBanc, an organ donor program under Donate Life at the Cleveland Clinic.
JIM McELROY recently competed in a 250-mile, 5-day bicycle ride in north central Ohio. McElroy received the heart of Amanda Rosepapa following her tragic death. He credits her heart for helping him finish the ride. Pictured, from left, are Rick Rosepapa, Suzanne McElroy, McElroy and Rose Rosepapa. The Rosepapa’s met the McElroy’s at the conclusion of the ride.
"I was on a waiting list for five days. My heart was so weak they (the doctors) were ready to hook me up to the machine, but then the match came," he said via a telephone interview from his home in Mentor late last week.
The match came from Amanda Rosepapa, the former St. John Central graduate and standout softball pitcher who was tragically killed in an accident in Akron in June of 2011. She was leaving a party with some friends when a car went out of control and struck her and several others, including police officers. The 21-year-old was the lone fatality.
"I feel very blessed to get this heart," McElroy, now retired after working as a dairy manager for a supermarket, said. "I haven't felt this good in 40 years. It's amazing.
"I've been told a lot of good things about Amanda," McElroy noted. "I've heard that she was a very good athlete, was close to getting a degree in nursing, and was very kind."
Although, obviously, he never had the chance to meet Rosepapa, he did have the opportunity to cross paths with her parents, Rick and Rose, when he took part in the 7th annual Episcopal Bishop Mark Hollingsworth Jr.'s Bishop's Bike Ride.
The 250-mile, 5-day, trek across north central Ohio drew nearly 40 participants this year. The hill-covered ride took bicyclists from Youngstown to Canton to Wooster to Gambier to Ashland to Wakeman, where it ended at the diocesan picnic at Hostile Valley Park.
"It was a long, hard ride," McElroy explained, "but very fulfilling. It was kind of a celebration of my heart being strong enough to complete it, and for Amanda, as well. I set a goal last year to finish this ride, and I did it."
It was during the ride that McElroy and the Rosepapa's met.
"They are fabulous people," McElroy said of the Bellaire couple. "They are down to earth people just like us, and we have a lot in common ... we're all Notre Dame fans."
McElroy was accompanied on the journey by his son, Ryan, who is an EMT in Dayton.
So, what's next for McElroy?
"There is a 5-day, 500-mile ride, but I don't know if it would be possible. However, I'm looking into it."
And I bet Amanda Rosepapa will be cheering him on from above if he does decide to take part.
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