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Man receives lifesaving lung transplant, vows to pay it forward

By Jatara McGee

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    KENWOOD, Ohio (WLWT) — The gift of life came in the nick of time for a Kenwood man.

WLWT first interviewed Mark Plummer in April 2022.

He was suffering from interstitial lung disease, an incurable lung disease that causes stiffening of the lungs, and his insurance would not cover the transplant he needed.

Less than a year later, he has a new set of lungs.

Doctors still don’t know what caused him to develop the disease, but Mark Plummer said he is eternally grateful to the person who saved his life by being an organ donor.

“It is absolutely a second chance at life,” he said. “We started calling it the gift.”

Mark Plummer was admitted to a Columbus hospital in early April. Family, friends and complete strangers helped pay the bill.

“I got donations from all over the country. We were amazed. Your story got picked up by stations all over the place,” Mark Plummer said.

Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center covered the rest through financial aid.

Mark Plummer received his life-saving transplant on April 19.

“I was very, very, very sick, so my recovery was much rougher than most people,” he said.

After the surgery, his kidneys went into shock. He was on dialysis for a month and spent a total of eight weeks in the intensive care unit. Then he spent time in rehab and another three weeks in Columbus for observation before heading home to Cincinnati.

“I knew he had it in him, but it was scary,” Mark’s wife, Linda Plummer, said. “I don’t have to worry about him as much anymore. I don’t wake up and — how loud is he breathing, is he breathing OK, checking his numbers.”

He is now healthy enough to return to work and started a new job with Capabilities Driving School, teaching teens and young adults with disabilities how to drive. He is back to playing with his grandkids, including an adorable new grandson, and walking his two dogs around the neighborhood.

“I can pretty much do what anyone else can do, up to — I’m not ready to run a marathon yet,” he joked. “Organ donation does save lives, and I’m sitting here talking to you as living proof that it really does save lives. And I’m looking forward to hopefully living at least another fifteen to twenty years because of that gift.”

Now he plans to pay that generous gift forward.

“Why not? Why not pay it forward and help somebody?” Mark Plummer said. “Somebody helped me.”

Several weeks ago, Mark Plummer saw a post on Nextdoor by a young woman named Bra’Naye Willis. She and her boyfriend rent an apartment at the Williamsburg Apartments of Cincinnati, and she was looking to advice. She said their apartment had no heat, there were leaks and air quality issues, among other problems.

“I had an asthma attack most recently in December because I couldn’t breathe because of the air quality conditions,” Bra’Naye Willis said. “It hurts me that people just really don’t care about any of us.”

The apartment complex has been in the news for months for a series of health and safety violations. The city of Cincinnati filed a lawsuit against the owners in January.

“Both her and her boyfriend, they suffer from lung issues, so that made a connection with me immediately,” Mark Plummer said. “Someone who has asthma doesn’t need to be in an environment like that.”

He started a GoFundMe page for the couple to help them move somewhere else before their lease is up. He also made the first donation.

He is determined not to take his second chance at life for granted and said he is “eternally grateful” to the donor’s family.

“One their worst day of their lives, they lost a loved one. That became the best day of my life,” he said.

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