ROCHESTER, Minn. -
Steve Shank's lungs were normal for most of his life -- but just before his 40th birthday, he received a devastating diagnosis: Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome, a rare condition that can cause bleeding, pulmonary fibrosis and vision problems.
"Between your thirties and forties you require a lung transplant," Shank said. "It was a crazy wild ride from initial symptoms to complete lung failure."
But an angel came in the form of a donor named Tommy. Now - Shank is better than ever.
"The doctor put it very well, two years ago, we were having little bumps in the road which we had with the lung transplant," Shank said. "You have to remember two weeks ago, you were dead. Every day is a good day."
Shank will have the chance to pay tribute to Tommy by riding the Donate Life float at the Rose Bowl Parade as a representative of Mayo Clinic. It means everything for this Hawkeye fan.
"The biggest thing that comes out of this is thanking the donating family...the gift they gave us so I can see my children, my wife, and have these experiences with them," Shank said.
At the parade - Shank hopes to be seen as a success story of organ donation.
"We just need more people to check the box and say, "Yes, I want to donate my organs if it comes to that," Shank said.
Mikel Prieto is a transplant surgeon at Mayo Clinic and says patients are transformed by organ donations.
"A lot of patients like him realize how wonderful it is to be alive and feel healthy and do all kinds of things," Dr. Prieto said.
Thanks to Tommy -- Steve will feel that wonder and happiness in Pasadena, living out his Rose Bowl dreams.
"It's an unbelievable experience for our family that we have now that we have been given this gift of life with new lungs," Shank said.
The Shank family will visit Disneyland before heading to Pasadena for the parade.