30 Stories in 30 Days: A Lifesaving Decision

Otto and Patti Abel

Otto and Patty Abel

Otto Abel was only 50 years old when a sudden stroke took his life in November 2007. His wife, Patty, and his two children, Natalie and Nathan, were shocked and devastated.

Otto was an avid hunter and fisherman, an active board member of the Harvard Sportsman’s Club and an ardent nature lover. “He was young, and his death was so unexpected, “ Patty said.

As an employee of OSF Home Care, Patty is no stranger to end-of-life issues, but she had never discussed the subject with her husband. When the hospital staff asked if Otto was a registered donor, Patty said she didn’t know. “And deciding for him wasn’t possible when I was trying to come to terms with the fact that he was gone,” she explained.

Otto enjoying a day on the lake.

Otto enjoying a day on the lake.

But Otto saved Patty that heartache because he had registered as an organ and tissue donor. “The hospital staff looked him up in the donor registry and confirmed his intentions,” she said. “This relieved me of the burden of making that decision for him.”

Otto’s decision had wonderful results. Steve Heller is alive today because Otto registered to be a donor. At the time of Otto’s death, Steve had been ill for 11 years and on dialysis for more than a year. After undergoing transplant surgery and receiving Otto’s kidney, Steve no longer needs dialysis and is living a happy, normal life.

“Our family will always carry the pain of losing Otto,” Patty said. “But his gift to Steve has brought us comfort because we know that in his death Otto saved Steve’s life.”

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