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Thursday, April 22, 2021

MEMBERS OF the Reicks Family that celebrate National Donate To Life efforts are (from left) Mia, Dale, Pam, Sierra and Tanis Reicks. COURTESY-PHOTO


Currently more than 300 Nebraskan’s and over 100,000 Americans are waiting to receive a lifesaving organ donation. Discuss your decision to become an organ donor with your family.

Dale Reicks is no stranger to doctor visits, needle pokes, blood draws or hospital stays. With a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 18, Dale soon became accustomed to his new lifestyle. He didn’t pick diabetes, diabetes picked him. In less than 20 years, the diabetes would take its toll on Dale’s body affecting his pancreas and his kidneys.

Diagnosed with severe hypoglycemia, Dale was battling blood sugar readings that would plummet to life threatening levels. His physician started the process to get Dale on the coveted organ transplant recipient list. And the waiting game began.

There were plenty of false alarms. “Several times we’d get the call, make the trip to Omaha, and then turn around and come right back home again.” said Pam, Reicks’ wife of 32 years. “We had a lot of ups and downs.

Lots of disappointment when we’d hear, no match.” added Dale.

Both Dale and Pam agreed that there were too many disappointments, too many let-downs to let them ever get too excited. “We would try to process our thoughts and emotions during the four-hour drive to Omaha” Dale explains.

In September 2002, the Reicks received yet another call. This time it was a match. Dale was taken into surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and five hours later Pam was told the pancreas transplant went smoothly. “I had such conflicting emotions. I was overjoyed, relieved, excited, thankful, but at the very same time I was also hurting for the family who decided to donate, or honor, their loved ones wish.” Pam shared through tears. “I felt the pain of their loss.” Dale would go through the

Dale would go through the process two more times. His kidneys began to fail and was put on dialysis. Driving to Kearney three days a week for two years for dialysis and then home dialysis for another year, was taking its toll. “It [dialysis] was tough. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.” Dale explained. Pam took a crashcourse on home dialysis so she could perform the delicate procedure for Dale at home. “It was very stressful. I literally had my husband’s life in my hands. Could I really do this?” she wondered.

In 2012 after three years of dialysis, Dale was a recipient of a “living-donor” kidney. Living donations take place when a living person donates an organ (or part of an organ) for transplantation. An ulcerated sore on Dale’s foot became septic, the transplanted pancreas became infected and shut down. Battling to survive, Dale received his second pancreas transplant in 2013.

Dale and Pam are huge advocates for organ donation. “I always mark the box on my driver’s license. We all do.” Dale said with pride. Dale and Pam have never met the donor’s families but have reached out to them. “It’s still overwhelming. Thank you is not enough. How can it be?” Pam said with emotion cracking her voice. “I wouldn’t have my husband without the generosity of strangers.” “My husband is living proof it [organ donation] works.” Pam smiled through tears. Dale smiled back in agreement.

There are many families that are impacted greatly by individuals that choice to Donate their organs and are celebrated every April during National Donate Life Month.

The family of Courtney and Sue Schroder also did their part in paying it forward during National Donate Life Month.

Seth William Schroeder was 12 years old when he died of injuries sustained from an automobile accident. His parents Courtney and Sue Schroder were told, “your son has no brain activity. Your son is brain dead.”

Courtney remembers a few months prior to the accident, he and Seth were home watching a television program where a stranger donated her bone marrow to a young boy diagnosed with leukemia. Seth told his dad, “hey dad, that’s pretty neat she did that for that little boy.” When the Schroeder’s were told Seth was brain dead, Courtney told the physicians, “my son is dead, we want to donate his organs.” And that’s how it, “come to be; all because of a television show we watched a few months prior to the accident.” Sue was not home when her husband and son watched this program, but she recalls, “Seth came into the kitchen to tell me about this really cool show he and his dad had watched.” She believes it (the tv show) happened for a reason.

Seth was a happy-go-lucky 12-year-old. He always stood up for the under-dog, didn’t tolerate anyone being bullied, loved running track, loved hunting with his dad. In just a little more than 12 hours after the decision to donate their son’s organs, Seth’s heart and lungs had been transplanted into two individuals, as his kidney’s, pancreas, liver, corneas, and eye tissue had been harvested and on their way to six more people in need of the life-saving organ/tissue transplants. Sue explained, “from our decision, to the retrieval, to the transplantation, the team coordinated everything. It was amazing. They were amazing.”

Courtney and Sue Schroeder are big advocates of organ/tissue donation. They both agree they found comfort and peace with their decision to donate Seth’s organs. “We know what it (organ donation) does; there are eight people who got the chance to live a little bit, or a lot longer, because of Seth” Courtney said. “We’ve gotten so much comfort reading the letters from the recipients” Sue agreed, “those letters…those letters…so much comfort.”

The Schroeder’s urge families to “Have the conversation. If we or a tv program can put that spark in someone’s mind so it’s there when/if the occasion arises, great!” Courtney replied. “There’s such a demand for organ donations” Sue added, “the need is tremendous.”

Courtney and Sue have had their share of what if’s and what for’s, but have never regretted their decision to donate Seth’s organs. “We can only hope if Seth was aware of what was going on that day, he would be thankful we honored what I assume to be his wishes to donate his organs”, Courtney quietly replied.

“We can’t help but wonder who Seth would have been. Who would he have married, how many kids?” said Courtney. “We’re proud of who our son was. Our son left a hell of a mark in this world, more than I’ll ever leave.”

April is National Donate Life Month, a time to celebrate the generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, eye and tissue donors and a great opportunity to share hope to those waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. You can make a difference; you can change lives. Sign up to become a donor at the DMV or at