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One donor, two lives and an incredible reunion

Posted at 5:41 PM, Mar 09, 2015

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A special reunion was held at Spectrum Health Hospital for two long-time family friends now sharing an incredible bond.

Gordon Veldman and Fred Nelis both received organ transplants at Spectrum Health on June 16, 2014, but they hadn't seen each other in ten years before their surgeries.

After their organ transplants, the two friends bumped into each at the Meijer Heart Center. Now, they're sharing more than just a deep friendship.

"It's like picking up a brother," said Nelis.

Nelis was diagnosed with Idiopathic Cardiomyopathy in 1994, the culprit was a heart virus. Gordon has Alpha-1, a genetic disorder commonly misdiagnosed as asthma; Deteriorating Gordon's lung capacity to just 15%.

Last year, Veldman was given a double lung transplant, and Nelis a new heart. Unknown to them, their transplants took place on the same night, in the same hospital, from the same organ donor.

"It's quite something to be given a gift that costs more than you've earned in your entire lifetime," said Veldman.

It's been 9 months since the surgery, and the two say they feel stronger than they have in years.

"When people say, 'Wow, what a miracle that happened to you!' My stock answer is, 'Absolutely, it was a miracle. But the real miracle is the fact that you don't need a transplant'," said Veldman.