Dave Grier: Flying High on his DreamsThursday, April 1, 2010 8:20
By Ellen Brown
Note: The story below is one in a series of articles I’m posting about people who have inspired me by overcoming life’s obstacles. I hope you find the story inspirational. It was originally published in Cleveland Clinic’s Transplant Center newsletter for patients and their families, and is reprinted here with the permission of Cleveland Clinic.
Although Dave Grier has dreamed of becoming a pilot, since he was a boy, for many years, the dream seemed out of range, first for financial reasons, then because of medical issues. But today, at the age of 51, Mr. Grier is more committed than ever to living his dream and is well on his way to achieving it. The student pilot passed ground school with flying colors, and completed his first solo flight in October.
Mr. Grier, who is a two-time recipient of liver and liver/kidney transplants, hopes to one day launch a non-profit organization that flies transplant patients to Cleveland for their surgery and follow-up appointments. While there are some nonprofits that already provide such services, none of the pilots on their crews are transplant recipients, and Mr. Grier believes it would be inspiring for transplant candidates and recipients to know that they are being transported by someone who has traveled a similar journey.
Mr. Grier, who received both transplants at Cleveland Clinic, the first in 1997 and the second in 2007, explains his journey as a pilot this way: “After my first transplant, I pretty much knew that I couldn’t get my medical clearance passed because I was a transplant patient, and the FAA has some pretty high standards.” But after recovering from his second transplant in 2007, he had some time to think, and his dream of becoming a pilot kept rising to the surface. Maybe he COULD actually become a pilot, he thought. Once he was strong enough to leave his hospital room, he went down the hall and hopped on the Internet. After doing a little online research, he found that there WERE a number of transplant recipients who had become pilots.
Mr. Grier remembers returning to his room with a big grin, with the knowledge that achieving his dream WAS possible. A year later, after fully recovering from the surgery, he applied for medical clearance for becoming a pilot, and on July 16, 2008, he had his clearance in hand. To say he was happy is a great understatement. “I was going to do a cartwheel in the post office when I got the clearance in the mail, but I didn’t want to explain it to the police,” he says with a laugh.
Recently, he accumulated enough in-flight hours so he could begin flying solo. Before he is allowed to have passengers accompany him on flights, he will have to pass a couple more tests, a fact that doesn’t seem to faze him.
Mr. Grier says his dream of helping transplant patients keeps him on track, so does his desire “to pay it forward” after being the fortunate recipient of the gift of life (from organ donors), not once, but twice.
For years, he has been giving back in a variety of ways. Today, he serves on the board of directors for TRIO, and for a time, he was the volunteer coordinator for the Minority Organ and Tissue Education program, where he had the opportunity to share his story and talk about the importance of organ and tissue donation to children and adults.
He’s also volunteered for the past few years in Cleveland Clinic’s Transplant Center, where he meets with patients who are awaiting or recovering from transplants. Mr. Grier says he loves to see patients’ eyes light up when they realize he’s there to talk to them about his experience, as a transplant recipient. “When I tell patients I’ve had two transplants, I notice that their attitude changes,” he says. “A lot of times they sit up in bed and pay attention. I think it’s really important for patients to talk to people who have undergone transplants and recovered. And I love being able to be that someone.”
To read more about Dave Grier’s high-flying adventures, visit his blog, Transplanted Pilot, at http://transplantedpilot.blogspot.com/
Copyright 2010 Cleveland Clinic
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Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, OH, who works with clients all over the world by telephone and Skype.Dave Grier