Alice Campbell Havre Daily News email@example.com
Chad Doney's death from an accidental gunshot wound on Oct. 26, 1998, gave 56 people better lives. Even though Chad made his organ donation wishes known on his driver's license, the final decision was still difficult, his mother Kathy Doney said. Regardless of all the tests doctors run to make sure, "I think you always wonder, 'Are they really gone?'" she said. "You see his chest rising and falling, but you realize it's the machine doing the work for him," Doney said and added that even so, "it's kind of a hard thing to understand" especially when the deceased is only 20 years old and "an all-around good kid." "He loved life. He loved the excitement of trying new things, and I think that's what's so important about his organs," Doney said. "He'd definitely want someone to benefit from his passing." "I do think that knowing that he lives on as on organ donor helps us," Doney said. "To know that he lives on in a sense helped us heal some. Most people don't have that opportunity." Doney has shared correspondence with the recipient of her son's liver as well as the recipient of his heart. When the family met the recipient of Chad's heart, "it was awesome” said Doney. “The first thing he said to us was 'I suppose you want to listen to Chad's heart.'" "So we all listened to his heartbeat." Doney said. And listening to his heart brought some closure. "It was just a very nice time kind of a peaceful, calming time when we finally knew, actually knew that part of him was there." Even though organ donations are beneficial and wonderful things, "you always have the backdrop of some great tragedy," said Dr. Christian Kuhr, director of transplantation at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Wash. "Seeing the patients recover having that impact on patients' lives" is why Kuhr does what he does. He also likes that he reconstructs patients instead of just cutting bad things out. "I'm sort of growing up with it," he said and added, "I think there's going to be a lot of change in the next 10 to 15 years." Active in research, Kuhr is now working on advancing transplants to the point where immunosuppressive medications are no longer needed. Even if an organ is a close match, the "immune system recognizes it's foreign and mounts an attack against it," Kuhr said. That requires the constant use of immunosuppressive medications to slow the rejection process, but "we still can't keep the body from ultimately winning the battle And rejecting the organ," he added. By using bone from the same donor when transplanting an organ, the recipient's immune system can be "reprogrammed" to avoid the immediate attack and "(the organs) will last forever, basically," Kuhr said. It's a tricky proposition though since to limit the immune system while implanting donor bone marrow makes the patient more susceptible to infection and even cancer, he added. The experiment Kuhr worked on with animal littermates has been successful. "The trick is to translate that to not so-closely related humans," he said. He also sees cell transplants to repair damaged organs "to some degree in the next 20 years." Donors must have functional organs, can't die from cancer or infection and must die inside of a hospital to actually give organs to recipients, Kuhr said. That "rules out the majority of us," he added. The key to increasing available organs is for everyone to designate themselves as donors so that "at least all of those could be donors," Kuhr said. People can register themselves as donors on their driver's licenses. Between July 2008 and February 2009, 108,681 people have gotten licenses. Of those, 64,720 have designated themselves as donors. The numbers are "pretty steady between 59 and 60 percent," Patrick McJannet with the state Motor Vehicle Department in Helena said. To receive a new license with the organ donor designation on it costs $10, but one can fill out a paper card and tape it to the back of the plastic license or keep it in a wallet. The Havre office is located in the Atrium Mall and open Monday through Friday varying hours in the morning, but always from 12:45 to 4:30 p.m. "(Organ donation) is just such a positive thing, and I don't think people understand it until they actually see it happen," Doney said and added that her entire family is designated as donors. "It's so important that we become organ donors because people live on and it helps someone else survive that might not survive," she said. "It's just a really neat feeling to know that he helped someone survive." To register as a donor, visit www.DonateLifeToday. com or call (877) 275-5269. For more information, visit www.nwts.org, www. Lcnw.org, www.organdonor.gov, and www.optn.transplant. hrsa.gov or call the Havre office of motor vehicle services at 265-3356.