Two families — connected forever — through organ donation

By Dave Marner, Managing Editor
Posted 10/13/21

A 5K walk and run scheduled Sunday as a “surprise” brought an  Owensville couple and their two sons and a Lebanon couple and their two daughters together for the first time.

Their …

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Two families — connected forever — through organ donation

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A 5K walk and run scheduled Sunday as a “surprise” brought an  Owensville couple and their two sons and a Lebanon couple and their two daughters together for the first time.

Their emotions of being parents of a child born with a genetic heart defect, and those of a child whose accidental death would lead to a heart transplant for the sick boy, were evident as the Palmers from Owensville and the McDougalds from Lebanon embraced each other.

They hugged. They laughed. They cried.

“This is a blessing,” said Danielle Palmer about her and husband Brett meeting Chris and Stephanie McDougald for the first time.

“We’re connected now,” said Chris McDougald. “This is a connection no one would ever want but we have it.”

Their son’s death gave the Palmer’s son life for at least another year.

An illness unrelated to the transplant would claim Truett Palmer’s life in November 2020.

More than 100 participants in the event gathered at First Baptist Church. After a brief prayer, walkers, runners, bicyclists and scooter riders headed off on a 3.1-mile circuit through town, ending near Potential Fitness for refreshments and grilled treats — $2,000 was raised and 125 t-shirts were sold.

The event itself was billed as a surprise. Palmer said she had no idea. She thought they were just participating in a regular fund-raiser race event some friends had organized.

“I had no clue,” she said. “Still didn’t have a clue when I got out of the truck.”

Palmer and her husband, Brett, would walk the route with Stephanie and Chris McDougald.

The event started out being a virtual group run with friends from a local  fitness group as a way to “honor organ and tissue donors, celebrate new life with recipients, support those waiting for a lifesaving transplant, and inspire others to say ‘yes’ to donation,” according to Kyla Walters. “Because of God and Ki (the McDougald’s son), we were blessed ONE more year with Truett.” 

The Mid-America Transplant program, credited with supporting the Palmer family throughout their child’s transplant and recovery, was expected to have 1,400 participants throughout the St. Louis region participating in Celebrate Life 5K runs and walks —with many of those people participating in a virtual mode.

In 2020, Mid-America Transplant impacted a record number of lives in eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and northeast Arkansas. The project provided these statistics:

• 278 donors provided 815 organs that were transplanted.

• 181,800 people received tissue from 2,424 donors, including bone, skin, heart valve and veins.

• 908 corneas enabled vision-saving transplants.

Mid-America Transplant is one of 58 federally-designated organ, tissue and eye procurement organizations, enabling adults and children to receive lifesaving gifts through organ and tissue donations for more than 40 years. It serves 84 counties covering eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and northeast Arkansas that combined are home to 4.7 million people.

It saves lives by providing expert and compassionate care for organ donors, recipients and families, and transforms the clinical processes required to recover and transplant organs and tissues. Mid-America Transplant was the first organization in the U.S. to use an in-house operating room for organ recovery and pioneered innovative models of increasing donor registry enrollment in an effort to provide organs and tissues to those in need. 

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