Finding another gift: Daly's friends organize fundraiser for kidney transplant
Colleen Daly still has a knack for counting -- she's up to 87 heart biopsies, the 5,412 pokes for IV's and 21 surgeries just to keep her veins open.
But, mostly the Spirit Lake woman just counts her blessings since June 2, 2005, when a massive heart attack and congestive heart failure almost ended her life.
She ultimately received a heart transplant -- Colleen still stays in touch with the family of Valerie, a 23-year-old newlywed who left her heart behind as an organ donor.
It saved Colleen's life starting Dec. 23, 2006. She woke up from the fog of surgery on Christmas morning calling it "the greatest gift anybody could ever have." Without the transplant, doctors told her she wouldn't have reached New Year's Day.
"I was one of the very fortunate ones who actually got a heart in seven months," she said. "I had five attempts -- the fifth attempt actually worked. Otherwise, we would go to the Mayo Clinic or get called at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning and we would be all ready to go. I would be in the O.R. unit and then we'd get told the heart wasn't going to work. We'd have to turn around and come home."
Unfortunately, Colleen continues to be a tough match in the decade since she received her heart. Doctors from Seattle to Germany couldn't figure it out, but Colleen's body keeps releasing rare antibodies to fight the transplant as if it's a disease threatening her health.
"Normally this does not happen to regular heart transplant patients," she said. "There are patients who go through a heart transplant that do absolutely wonderful and there are some that have bumps in the road. I've just had a lot of speed bumps in the road. But I thank the good Lord above that I'm still alive. Without this, without all of the prayers that everybody has put out, I know I would not be here today."
Now, she needs a little more help.
Five years ago, doctors told Daly her kidneys were starting to fail.
Living donors are an option for this particular organ and Daly found one in an unexpected place.
"When my son was in the military, stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia, he met a guy down there and he ended up being a half-brother I never knew I had," she said. "So far, he's passed three of the tests and he'll be going to Mayo to undergo more testing. We keep praying everything is going to happen."
Colleen has also undergone chemotherapy in the past to weaken her aggressive defense system. The process fought off the very system that helps her recover from the common cold. You'll see her with a mask and long sleeves as she makes her occasional journeys out into the community. "Our ambulance crew knows me quite well," she adds.
Heart and, now, kidney trouble have taught Colleen and her husband Pat to take one day at a time.
"We don't look ahead," she said. "I get up in the morning and thank the good Lord that I've got another day and that's the way I've looked at it and that's the way you have to look at it. It is no different than anybody battling cancer or any other diseases that they're going through. You take one day at a time. If you look at the big picture of what's going to happen next, you get overwhelmed and you get depressed."
Daly is encouraged by the amount of support she's received in efforts to offset past expenses and, now, the cost of her upcoming transplant. Friends have organized a day-long fundraiser and celebration April 30 at the Dickinson County Expo Building in Spirit Lake.
The event starts from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a pancake and sausage breakfast. A Christian vocal performance is planned in the morning. Dave Rowley will provide music for part of the day as well.
A silent auction will take place throughout the day. Items up for bid include a trio of four-hour bass fishing tours with a fishing professional, who will supply the boat, tackle and equipment.
Another donor is making a suite near Minnesota's border waters available for a four-day, five-night trip.
John Senn and Friends, Terry Klein, Steve Daly, Denny Story and Sue Clark will entertain Saturday night. A pork meal with sides will be served from 5-8 p.m. A dance follows from 8-11 p.m.
Firefighters from throughout northwest Iowa have volunteered to help. Pat Daly is Spirit Lake's Fire Chief.
"You'll never know how much I can thank them," Colleen said of all the volunteers. "Everybody has really come together on this and it really has been -- I'm very grateful for everybody who has come forward and done all of this to help me to get a kidney."
AT A GLANCE
What: Colleen Daly Benefit Committee fundraiser
When: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, April 30
Where: Dickinson County Expo Building, Spirit Lake
There has also been an account set up at Central Bank in Spirit Lake to help the Pat and Colleen Daly family offset the cost of Colleen's upcoming kidney transplant.
ANOTHER WAY TO HELP
The Iowa Firefighters Association is partnering with the Iowa Donor Network to challenge each county in Iowa to gain 100 additional registered organ donors in 100 days, issuing the challenge on National Donate Life Green and Blue Day to raise awareness of the lifesaving importance of being a registered donor.
"There are 624 people on Iowa's organ wait list and more than 123,000 people on the national wait list," said Tony Hakes, Iowa Donor Network public outreach manager. "One donor has the potential to save up to eight people's lives through organ donation and help more than 50 people through tissue donation. Just imagine how many people on this wait list we could save, if we can reach our goal of 100 people per county."
In 2014, the lives of 29,532 Americans were saved through organ donation. Anyone can register to be a donor regardless of age or medical condition.
Iowa Donor Network (IDN) is a nonprofit organization that operates as the primary contact for organ, tissue and eye donation services for the state of Iowa. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have certified IDN to function as the single organ procurement agency in the state.