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Overcoming the odds: Double lung transplant recipient becomes Merriam police officer

Man shares story of survival to raise awareness for Cystic Fibrosis and organ donation
Merriam police officer Dalton Peavler
Posted at 3:44 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 19:54:05-04

MERRIAM, Kan. — This week marks a milestone for a Merriam police officer.

Although it's an accomplishment for any officer to make it through the academy and complete his or her on-the-job training, Ofc. Dalton Peavler's case is especially impressive.

That's because two years ago, he nearly died on the operating table undergoing a double lung transplant.

Now, this week, he's officially starting to patrol on his own, armed with a story he hopes will inspire others even in their darkest hours.

"It’s really an experience I don’t take for granted every day I put the uniform on," Peavler said. "I have like imposter syndrome. I’m like, 'Is this real?'"

It's disbelief born from a lifetime of being sick.

Peavler was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic condition that damages the lungs and digestive system.

Over the years, his lung function continued to decrease.

Activities he loved, like playing music and hunting, became more and more difficult, till he ended up emaciated and on oxygen at all times.

At that point his only option for survival was a transplant.

Thankfully, that call came two years ago.

"They were like, 'Hey, I’ve got lungs for you.' And I was like, 'OK.' They said, 'Do you want them?' And I said, 'I need 10 minutes,'" Peavleer said. "And then I talked to my mom, cried a little bit, and then I was like, 'OK, let’s do this.'"

However, even with that gift, he almost didn't survive.

"The surgeon that did my transplant told my mom it was the hardest case he ever worked because I had so much scarring, and my lungs were stuck to my chest cavity that they had to chisel them off," Peavler said. "So, when it happened, I bled out and they had to give me 30 units of blood to survive that."

Still, he defied the odds, pulling through after 13 hours in surgery.

He recalls immediately being able to breathe easier, and says he started doing rehab as soon as he could to get stronger, all with the goal of becoming a police officer.

"My whole life, I was a person that needed help; I needed saving," Peavler said. "I was never the person that people leaned on, you know? And after the transplant, I was like, 'If I can do that, I want to be the person that is there for people. I want to help people.'"

So, he applied for a job with the Merriam Police Department.

"The conversation with him was great, and we thought he would be a great fit as a police officer here in the city of Merriam," Merriam Chief of Police Darren McLaughlin said. "And the only questions we had: is he going to be able to physically do the job?"

But, Peavler's doctors signed off. And, since then, McLaughlin says he's met the same requirements as any other officer.

This week, as he starts patrolling on his own, Peavler is finally able to put those past limitations in the rearview mirror, looking ahead to using his experience to help others.

"When I interact with people that are in tough situations, I try to relay that to them that this is what happened to me, and this is where I’m at," he said. "And I think it resonates with a lot of people. And I think I always ask them to think about what you want to do and how you want to change that, and you can be that."

His message is especially fitting this month since May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month.

He says he hopes his story helps raise awareness for the disorder, and serves as a reminder for people to sign up to be an organ donor.

Peavler says he is forever grateful to his donor, and hopes that by serving his community, he does right by the stranger who gave him the gift of life.