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Oct. 1, 2011
WISCONSIN PLAYER DONATES KIDNEY TO KEEP STRANGER ALIVE
Jack Sirard contributing writer
Like a lot of senior softball players, Dan Andersen has had his share of sports injuries that have led to reconstructive surgeries. For instance, he’s had both his knees and his shoulders repaired.
But while those surgeries helped Andersen, 59, return to playing softball, his most recent surgery took him to a whole new level in the game of life.
Back in 2009, Andersen, who plays for Roberts Construction in Wisconsin, attended a presentation on organ transplants that served as a prelude to the Organ Transplant Games that were to be played later that year in Madison.
“A spokesman for the University of Wisconsin Madison Transplant Hospital talked about the need for certain organs and noted that the waiting list from deceased and living donors was significant for those needing a kidney,” Andersen said.
“I was just struck by the great needs out there and later I started to read about it and the more I read, the more I knew I could do something. So in April 2010 I made a call to the hospital and told them that I wanted to donate a kidney.”
According to Andersen, the hospital does about 300 kidney transplants a year with 200 of them coming from deceased donors and 98 or so coming from family and friends of those needing a transplant.
The other two donations are what are called humanitarian organ donations that come from people like Andersen who gave up one of his two kidneys anonymously.
“My thought was that I was blessed with pretty good health and a person only needs one kidney and since I had had prior surgeries on my knees and shoulder, it wasn’t going to be a big deal,” he recalled.
Choosing to keep this a secret from anyone other than his wife, Andersen got the call on Dec. 16 of 2010 that he was a match for someone who needed a kidney in order to survive.
So he and his wife Linda quickly notified their adult children of what was about to happen and off to the hospital they went.
“I really didn’t give it a lot of thought, but I knew this was the right thing to do,” he said. He notes that due to a few complications his surgery went on for six hours instead of the usual three and that led to a few minor problems.
But he was home in time for Christmas, was back to work as a partner with an accounting firm on Jan. 4 and returned to playing both basketball and softball in short order.
He says he now tries to drink more water and regularly sips an ounce of cranberry juice each day, but other than that, “I’m fine.”
“I’m really glad that I didn’t tell people ahead of time judging from the reaction since. While most women think it’s wonderful, a lot of the guys think it was dangerous and that it would have been too painful.”
And what about the person who received his kidney?
Andersen says he doesn’t know if he will ever meet her but through a couple of letters that were exchanged through the hospital, he found out her first name and “she thanked me for giving her the gift of life.”
In her “Dear Donor” letter that Andersen received in March through the transplant program office, she wrote, “There is not a day that has gone by that I have not thought of you and the life you have given back to me.”
He also received an afghan that one of her relatives had made as a “small token of their appreciation.”
“I never really spent a lot of time thinking about the reaction that people would have but for the most part it has been heartwarming to me and my family,” he said.
Andersen encourages others to consider giving a similar gift, but “knowing that not everyone can, I urge them to pick a sticker on their driver’s license designating themselves as an organ donor and to register online at donatelife.net.”
While Andersen is now on the DL for an unrelated injury, he plans on being with his team in Phoenix for the World Championships. Last year, the team won Triple Crown of Senior Softball and now has moved up to play at the 55 Major Plus level.
He admits playing at the higher level is a lot more challenging, but it’s nothing like what he has done in the past year.
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