by Amy Doeun
Tim Fairclough is acutely aware of the fact that organ donation saves lives.
In July of last year, he received a double lung transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Tim lives with his wife, Keri, on Rush Lake. On April 5, Keri and Tim shared their story at the Rush City Library. Keri has become a passionate advocate for getting the word out about organ donation.
In her presentation, she said organs that can be transplanted include the pancreas, liver, intestines, two kidneys, two lungs and heart. All of these organs must come from someone who has died in a medical setting. However, corneas and tissues like skin, veins and tendons can be transplanted within 24 of death. And some tissues can be frozen and used for up to a year.
The first organ transplant was a kidney transplant in 1954 between identical twins. Recently, the Mayo clinic just conducted the first face transplant.
“Anyone can be a donor — all ages, varieties of health conditions — and the family can provide consent if the wishes are unknown or not documented,” Keri said.
Even children can donate, but their families will have to make the final determination. Keri said children do occasionally need organs, and they need kid-sized organs.
People can register as an organ donor on their driver’s license application, going online to www.life-source.org or organ donation can be decided when a person pays for a hunting or fishing license. The important thing, Keri said, is for a person to share his or her wishes and talk to their family and friends about being organ donors as well.
According to Keri, in Minnesota 63 percent of adults are registered organ donors. Even at that percentage, 21 people die every day while waiting. Not every organ donor who dies will be paired with an organ recipient. Sometimes it depends on how a person dies and the conditions of the organs when they die. Also, getting a good match with blood type and sizes of people makes a difference.
Tim was one of the lucky ones. He was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis four years ago. This condition results in scar tissue on the lungs that grows, ever decreasing the amount of oxygen the patient can absorb, slowly suffocating them. The Faircloughs had recently bought a home on Rush Lake because, as Keri said, “You just have to keep living with the best attitude you can.”
Over the years, Tim steadily needed more medical intervention to keep living, with larger and larger oxygen machines. Finally 2016 started, “and it was bad,” Tim said.
They closed Keri’s child care business, Tim quit working, and they moved full time to Rush Lake. They were only there a couple of weeks. Tim moved into St. Mary’s Hospital where he would live until he received a transplant. The family waited and waited and Tim worked to keep up his strength.
Finally, on July 4 of last year, the Faircloughs got the call that would change their lives.
“We are so incredibly grateful for Tim’s donor,” Keri said with tears in her eyes.
She went on to say that they think about the donor’s family all the time and the fact that the best day of their lives was the worst day for this family.
However, she said that many donor families choose to get involved with getting the word out about organ donation. One family of a young man named Christopher shared in a video about their experience that their son was able to help 40 to 60 people. This knowledge gave them hope.
Tim has made a remarkable recovery. He said that donor recipients often live five years post-transplant, and now that number is growing to 15-plus years post-transplant. He and Keri said they were offering the presentation in honor of Brent, a man who was in the hospital with Tim. He died waiting for a transplant.
“He had a tougher blood group and a shorter chest size,” Tim said, so it was harder finding a match for him.