NOTE: The following is a follow up article to a Spotlight piece by Diane Dryden that was published on DrydenWire.com December 13, 2018. You can read part one of this story by clicking HERE.
Over a year and a half ago, Larry Dullinger of Trego, Wisconsin, received an eye transplant. It changed his life, due to the sad fact one of his eyes had macular degeneration, and his good eye was the victim of shingles.
By faithfully treating his diseased eye with drops several times a day and lying flat and staying as immobile as he could, for two months, he saved his eye but lost the vision in it.
Legally blind, he was unable to drive and had to curtail many of his former activities; some of which was being an active member of the Honor Guard and ringing bells for the Salvation Army. Now he had to rely on others for all of his transportation needs. It was his sister, Adelle Koel, who was his main driver taking him wherever he needed to go.
Because he was eligible, his ophthalmologist recommended he consider a cornea transplant for the eye in which shingles did so much damage.
In August of 2017, he checked into the hospital for surgery that restored his vision in one eye after two years of blindness.
The transplant service, KeraLink International, sent literature home with him in case he was interested in contacting the donor's family to say thank you. They did not promise that the donor's family would respond, but KeraLink would forward the letter if he chose to write one.
In December 2018, and after carefully following the suggested guidelines for what to write and not to write to the donor's family, the letter was finished and mailed, along with his photo, to KeraLink.
Now the wait, not knowing if he would ever hear anything.
In less than a month, a letter came, and as promised, here it is.
Thank you so for your letter. It meant so much to our whole family, and my husband would be thrilled that his cornea is helping you.
My husband was 52 years old when he passed away after having a heart attack on the golf course. His life revolved around his family and friends. He loved the outdoors, he loved to fish and was a geologist who worked for the same company for over 25 years.
He was very fun loving, happy person who had a sparkle in his eye and a contagious laugh. We were married for 25 years and had 3 children.
My husband was not a veteran, but a proud American who would have thanked you for your service, as do I.
Again, thank you for your letter. May you continue to thrive.”
If you are considering becoming a donor, you can start by letting your family know your wishes and by adding an indication on your driver's license.
It is interesting to note that the cornea is the most commonly transplanted tissue and that there are more than 40,000 corneal transplants each year in the U.S.
Almost 115,000 people in the U.S. are currently on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant, and out of that number, twenty people die every day still waiting.
One deceased donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation. Organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and small intestines. Tissues include corneas, skin, veins, heart valves, tendons, ligaments, and bones.
Over 700,000 transplants have occurred in the U.W. since 1988, and according to the American Transplant Foundation, "Liver and kidney disease kills over 120,000 people each year. That's more people than Alzheimer's. breast or prostate cancer."
Other interesting facts about organ donation is that each person's medical condition is evaluated at the time of their death to determine what organs and tissues are viable for donation. Even people living with chronic diseases or those who have a history of cancer, or other serious conditions are still encouraged to join the donor registry.
For further information on being a donor, there is donatelifeamerica.net, Keralink.org, or talk to your health-care provider next time you visit.
Larry's donor was indeed not old and didn't expect to die that day while playing golf. Thankfully for Larry, his donor planned ahead.
You can read part one of this story by clicking HERE.
About the Author
Diane is a features writer for DrydenWire.com. She started her fifteen-year career as a features writer for the Washburn County Register and has written for assorted newspapers and national magazines. She has also just released the third novel in her Chicago series of books – Scott Free in Chinatown. You can visit Diane's website at www.dianedryden.com or her facebook page at facebook.com/authordianedryden.