CHEYENNE, Wyo. (CBS4)– Valentine’s Day is also “National Donor Day,” across the United States. While many celebrate love, others hope to use the holiday to encourage everyone to show their love by signing up to be an organ donor.
In Colorado and Wyoming, nearly 2,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant. Nearly 70 percent of Coloradans have signed up to donate organs when they pass.
While donating organs after life is important, there are examples of living donors giving to strangers. Doug Bare, a resident of Cheyenne, is one of those who made that selfless decision.
Bare was first exposed to organ donation in 1986 when his son Keith received a heart transplant. Keith was 16 months old at the time of his surgery and received a heart after another child died.
“Some young family that had just gone through a tragic event of losing a child had to make the decision to donate organs,” Bare said.
Bare said he was forever grateful for the strangers who made that choice, especially after he waited more than a year for a match for his son.
“The anticipation of just waiting to see if there will be a donor available is probably the hardest part,” Bare said. “My son was 16 months old then. He lived to be 6-and-a-half.”
While his son died at a young age, Bare said he was grateful for the extra time he was given to create memories with his boy.
“(The memory) that I remember most, is just being able to be called ‘Daddy,’” Bare told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
In the decades to follow, Bare always considered how he could return the favor. Because he didn’t know the family who saved his son’s life, he chose to be a random donor as well. By offering his kidney, Bare became a living donor.
In September 2016, Bare was matched, coincidentally, with someone who also lived in Cheyenne. The two never met, only physically crossing paths while in surgery.
While he said he would love to meet the person he helped, he didn’t need a relationship in order to be happy with his decision.
“You have to make it personal. It has to affect you personally,” Bare said. “Being able to give back that gift we were given for my son, to somebody else, to help them and their family to experience more time with them, you can’t explain it.”
Bare hoped his story, and the stories of others, would encourage more people to consider donating. Whether it be in life or death, the simple donation of an organ could save lives.
Reflecting on his decision to donate a kidney in his son’s honor, Bare said he felt he did the right thing.
“I think that my son would even say that he was proud of me,” Bare said.
LINK: Donate Life Colorado