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On Saturday, April 28, Newtown’s Kovack family will be headed to Windsor to participate in the annual Blue & Green 5K and Walk, which raises awareness and honors organ donors’ selfless acts that have helped others — most often complete strangers — to survive.
Blue & Green Day, according to donatelife.net, is a day when the public “is encouraged to wear blue and green, hold events and fundraisers… in an effort to promote the success of organ, eye and tissue transplantation and the extreme need for registered donors.”
While a group of walk participants led by Lynn and Scott Kovack will be there to honor their late daughter, Mindy, who was an organ donor, her family is hoping to meet one of the recipients who was given a new lease on life because she received Mindy’s donated liver.
The backstory ahead of this possible meeting unfolded as Lynn Kovack, a town Building Department staff member, and her fellow workers prepared to celebrate Blue & Green Day earlier this month. Less than 24 hours before she and town employees planned to gather to celebrate Blue & Green Day, April 13, she received correspondence from a 70-year-old woman in Massachusetts.
Right after Mindy passed away from an accidental opioid overdose in March 2016, Lynn Kovack learned that a woman who was hospitalized and near death from liver disease would be receiving Mindy’s liver.
“She had about three days to live and needed a liver transplant, and sadly, Mindy’s liver became available,” Ms Kovack told The Newtown Bee.
Unfortunately, the liver recipient was under the mistaken impression that her donor was a single person who had no surviving family. So she thought there was nobody to reach out to and thank for the life-saving gift she received.
More recently, Ms Kovack said she sent a letter through the organ donor network hoping to eventually speak to any of Mindy’s organ and tissue recipients who were willing to make contact.
“We were interested in who they were, and if they were doing all right after their transplants,” she said.
That is when the donor network was able to connect with and correct the information Mindy’s liver donor originally received, and the recipient immediately reached out to express her deep appreciation to the Kovack family.
“Donor survivors can start this outreach through the donor network, which encourages donor families to supply contact information,” Lynn Kovack said. “We were told offering contact information was important because many recipients believe the donor families don’t want to be contacted. But of course we do — we want to know they are doing well.”
When the Kovack family received the response, “we were flabbergasted,” Ms Kovack said.
The recipient, a Massachusetts resident, related that she was upset when she first learned there were no donor survivors to thank.
“But when she found out we were here in Connecticut, she was beyond thrilled,” Ms Kovack said. “She doesn’t have a lot of family but she does have a son who actually found her unconscious from liver failure. After he got her in the hospital and learned she was dying, a couple of days later they received the call that Mindy’s liver became available.”
The recipient finally was able to call and speak with Lynn on April 12, and that is when Lynn told her about the possibility of meeting up at the April 28 Blue & Green event.
“We promised to meet up really soon and I told her this Saturday was the annual donor walk up in Windsor, and we were walking in honor of Mindy,” Ms Kovack said. “I don’t know if she will be able to make it, but we’re hoping. She knows we will be there and we have a special [commemorative] shirt for her. It would be a nice surprise if she showed up.”
The recipient also told Ms Kovack that since receiving the liver transplant, her entire outlook on life has changed.
“I told her that would be Mindy, because she was so full of life,” Ms Kovack said.
As municipal and school district participants donned their blue and green and gathered for a photo with Ms Kovack on April 13, they also got to meet Sandy Hook resident Daniel Krauss, who received a new heart on April 8, 2017 — 11 years after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure during a visit to Danbury Hospital’s Emergency Department.
“I’m thankful for the support of my family, friends, and all of the doctors and nurses who have treated me over the years. I’m especially thankful to my donor and his family,” Mr Krauss related in a Blue & Green Day release from the hospital. “I’m very cognizant of the fact that someone gave me the ultimate gift and saved my life.”
The local resident regularly participates in Donate Life Connecticut speaking engagements at Danbury Hospital to honor his donor and to generate awareness about organ donation.
Now he has a friend and neighbor who can share and amplify that message from the donor perspective.
“I would never thought of doing it, but since Mindy’s passing, my husband and I both became donors,” Ms Kovack said. “To know my child is living on in someone else, and knowing others have lived because of Mindy’s sacrifice is comforting and therapeutic.”
Every dollar raised through the Blue & Green initiative and this weekend’s event in Windsor goes directly to programs to educate the public about donation and to increase the number of registered donors in New England who can save and improve lives.
Learn more about New England Donor Services by visiting neds.org