By Alan Gionet
MORRISON, Colo. (CBS4) – “When I got hurt a couple years ago, I had no idea it would turn into something like this,” a visibly stronger Dave Repsher told the crowd.
The words were spoken Monday night to a gathering of supporters at Red Rocks Country Club in Morrison. Dave can hold attention like he used to hold precious life in his hands in his work as a flight nurse.
His life changed massively in July of 2015 when he was in a Flight For Life helicopter that crashed shortly after takeoff in Frisco. The impact, the attempt to save pilot and friend Patrick Mahany (who perished), the fire that left Dave burned over 90 percent of his body, all happened in seconds.
Then things slowed down. Dave spent over a year in the hospital. Heavy antibiotics helped save him, but also claimed much of his hearing and kidney function.
Incredibly, Dave survived challenge after challenge, possible due to his uber-fit life before the crash, but without question due to an unbreakable spirit.
As he improved and began to work, his skin that he described as “like a skinny suit,” he still felt weakened and burdened by his kidney problems.
“It was a daunting task for myself and my wife to do dialysis five days a week and kind of be, for lack of better words, kind of chained at home,” Dave told the crowd.
This was a crowd of his own, hockey players like Dave who came to help the Dawg Nation Hockey charity that helped Dave and his wife Amanda.
Money was a huge help in enabling Amanda, a nurse herself, to stay with Dave. But what would be bigger and probably more difficult, would be a kidney. Dave’s injuries meant a kidney had to be as close as possible to an exact match.
“Even though I was alive, it really wasn’t living. Thankfully an angel came into our lives.”
Matt Martinez followed the story of Dave’s challenges from Dave’s mother, whom he knew from Copper Mountain. Martinez, a single dad supporting two teenagers, works as an electrician and volunteers safety work on the slopes at Copper.
Last Christmas, he heard the latest about Dave’s need for a kidney at a Christmas party.
“And hearing about Dave at the Christmas party again, went home, sat at home for a few weeks, thought about it and decided, ‘Well, what’s the worst that could happen?'”
In August, Matt took leave of his job. He and Dave were at UCHealth for the transplant.
“We were like a 99 percent match minus our DNA. Which was … wow,” said Matt.
It wasn’t easy on Dave. His level of burn injury meant new challenges for both patient and the doctors doing the transplant. Slowly, Dave fought yet another winning battle. It was working.
“I’m really feel like I’m just getting back on my feet and really able to start doing things again,” Dave said this week.
There’s still more recovery ahead. Matt has lost a little of himself. He’s not fully recovered either yet. But there’s a feeling of something else.
“It makes me feel alive knowing that I helped someone else live.”
The people at the benefit gave rousing applause to Dave and Matt this week. Two heroes together. Dave delivered thanks to Matt and everyone who could hear him. He wants to shout about the importance of organ donation.
“It is the gift of life and I will back that up by every word.”
“We would not be here without the community, without friends and family and the community,” said Repsher.
If you’re looking for more information about transplant services, visit a special section of uchealth.org.
Matt still has bills rolling in, even with the leave he took to give Dave a kidney. Help him out at youcaring.com.
Matt says he’d like to thank family, friends and employers Copper Mountain and Kenny Electric.