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A gift that keeps on giving: Four transplant recipients to share their stories Saturday from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Holy Trinity

Posted: Tuesday, Jan 8th, 2013

Four transplant recipients will share their stories during a seminar, “Organ Transplants: The Gift That Keeps On Giving,” from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 425 21st St. S.W.

The program is sponsored by the Holy Trinity Health Cabinet, and will feature heart transplant recipient Dan Langbehn, cornea recipient Bill Davis and kidney recipients Chris Wolff and Bonnie Crow. Crow’s husband, Bob, donated one of his kidneys to her, and he will also be part of the presentation. All are from the Huron area.

“I would like people to be aware of the importance of donating,” Bonnie Crow said. “If not a living donor, to be a donor on their driver’s license.”

She said her husband, Bob, who donated one of his kidneys to her, recovered quickly from his surgery and has had no side effects.

Crow received her first kidney transplant in October 1991, with her brother donating a kidney. With difficult-to-control diabetes, she also received a pancreas transplant in 1998. The pancreas creates insulin that is needed for the digestion and absorption of food. Prior to that, she was taking two to three insulin shots a day to control her blood sugar.

“I had been diabetic for more than 20 years, which had destroyed my first kidney,” said Crow, who was 32 when she received her first kidney transplant.

“I was fortunate to keep that kidney for 21 years, which is a significant time for a transplanted kidney,” she said.

“I was very tired and hospitalized many times before my transplants,” Crow added. “I’m 53 years old now and feel like I can return to work and be able to golf and spend time with my kids and grandkids.”

Although Crow and her husband had the same blood type, he was first disqualified to be a donor because he was 25 pounds overweight and used tobacco.

“Bob was very determined to be my donor,” she said. “He started working out, stopped chewing, limited his salt intake — just a healthier lifestyle. In a little over two months he called them back and he qualified.”

Crow said the transplant took place Nov. 6, and she was released from the hospital the week after Thanksgiving.

“I am feeling wonderful and we are looking forward to sharing our story with others,” she added.

After undergoing a heart transplant in 1993, Dan Langbehn of Huron said he woke up after surgery knowing his life was changing for the better.

“Before the transplant I was in and out of the hospital, had trouble breathing, fluid on the lungs and I wasn’t able to walk very far,” Langbehn said. “My quality of life wasn’t much fun.

“I enjoy every day I have,” he added. “I have aches and pains like everyone else, but I am still on the right side of the grass and that is always a good thing.”

Langbehn and his wife, Pam, have three children and a granddaughter.

“My favorite saying is ‘Don’t take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them here,’” he added.

Bill Davis was attending Wesleyan University in Mitchell in 1961 when he made an appointment with an eye doctor who diagnosed him with keratoconus, a disease which causes the normally gently-curved cornea to protrude or steepen causing blurred vision.

Fresh out of high school, Davis said he filed the doctors prediction that he might eventually need a corneal transplant and went on with his life.

By 1986, the corneal disease had caused so much distortion in his ability to see that a transplant was recommended.

“In 1986 there was no place in South Dakota to get a transplant, you had to go out of state and be on a waiting list,” Davis said. He and his wife, Carole, have two children and four grandchildren.

Within two weeks of being added to the waiting list, he was at the University of Minnesota ready for his new cornea. While his right eye began responding with better vision almost immediately, the cornea in his left eye then began to deteriorate.

By 1994, when he required a cornea transplant in his left eye, the surgery could be done in Sioux Falls with an abundance of corneas available.

“After I got the left one done I was near-sighted in one eye and far-sighted in the other,” Davis said. “You don’t know what you’re getting when they’re transplanted. I was wearing contact lenses and glasses at the same time. Then, when the cornea surface was too distorted to keep contacts on I went to strong glasses.”

His third cornea transplant was in 2010, after his right cornea became infected with a cold sore caused by a herpies virus.

“We used drops and medicine and it started going away with this,” Davis said. “In the meantime, the cold sore is on the cornea, eating away at it. In 2010 the cornea was so scarred up I could not see out of it.”

Davis said he hesitated going for the third transplant until doctors assured him there are ample corneas available for transplant needs in South Dakota.

“I believe everybody should be an organ donor,” he said. “You don’t need the parts when you’re gone. I’m a firm believer in organ donation, whatever I’ve got that people can use.”

Davis said its important to talk to your family about being an organ donor.

“Even if you have it on your license that you want to be a donor, your family has to be aware of what your wishes are because they will make that decision,” he added. “Lung, heart and kidney are rare parts, they are not readily available like corneas are. That’s more life-threatening than not being able to see.”

When Chris Wolff underwent a kidney transplant on the Fourth of July nine years ago, it was a turning point in his life.

“It was a true independence day,” said Wolff, who had been on dialysis for the previous three and a half years.

Wolff had been involved in an accident in 1983, when the arm of a boom truck he was working on to remove spotlights from broke, dropping him the entire height of the grandstands.

“It tore me up pretty bad. It did major kidney damage at the time,” Wolff said. “One was working at 45 percent, one 50 percent. Both my native kidneys are gone. They took the right one out just a few years ago.”

He and his family were living near Wolsey when the hospital called to put him on notice that a kidney may be available.

“Every year we had a big Fourth of July party at our place and we were getting cleaned up for that,” Wolff said. “We were pooped and dirty, but we said we’re on our way.”

Wolff said he only knows that his kidney came from a person in Minnesota who was 21.

“It’s such a life-changing event for the people that receive these organs,” he said. “Kidney dialysis is equivalent to 10 percent of one kidney functioning. You’re really pretty sick all the time. It can be difficult to understand. The freedom that comes with those organ donations is not totally understood.”

For the complete article see the 01-06-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 01-06-2013 paper.

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