This morning I spent some time at our booth at the State Fair with a two-time donor sister, a heart-kidney recipient and her husband, and the person whose story I want to share with you today, Dale Flakne.
Dale is not a recipient or a donor family member. Dale’s story is a tragic reminder of the fact that there are not enough organs donated to help everyone in need. In 2005, after 15 months on the transplant waiting list, his wife, Mary, died before she was able to receive the lung transplant she so desperately needed. Mary died just a few days before their first granddaughter, Callie, was born.
A second marriage for both Dale and Mary, they had just celebrated their 12th anniversary when Mary went to the doctor suspecting that she had bronchitis. Instead, she found out that she had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and that her condition was terminal. The only cure was a lung transplant. “It hit us like a ton of bricks,” said Dale. “We were just not expecting that.”
During the 15 months that Mary was listed for transplant, one of her daughters was accepted as a living lung donor for her. They still needed to find a second donor, however. Living lung donation is a rare procedure in which a lobe from two living donors is transplanted into the recipient.
Since Mary’s death, Dale has become an active volunteer for LifeSource. In his years working at the State Fair, Dale estimates that he has registered upwards of 80 people. In the hour I spent with him this morning, he registered five additional people as organ and tissue donors. “That’s why we’re here,” he shares.
Dale has also shared his story at work several times, and said that at least 40 people have told him that he and Mary are the reason they have registered as donors.
As I watched Dale talk with fairgoers this morning, I hear him repeat a statistic we so often share but rarely can personalize. “Each day 18 people die while they wait for a transplant. My wife was one of those 18 people.”
We know that by sharing their stories and giving people the facts about donation, our volunteers are providing hope to the people on the transplant list who are still waiting for their second chance at life. Thank you for everything you do to help end deaths on the transplant waiting list.