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Anderson Independant-Mail 09/26/06 front page.
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Below is the rest of the story.
Child donates lives

By JOHN STAED Anderson Independent-Mail
September 26, 2006

Inside Beau Langer's body is a kidney not of his own making.

Kilby Seigler of Seneca died 10 days short of his 12th birthday about 14 years ago, but his heart, lungs and a kidney live on.

The two are on opposite sides of the organ-donation picture, one where the central theme is life.

While South Carolina has a good record in the number of families who chose to donate a loved one's organ, there remain nearly 93,000 people across the country in need of organs and tissue.

In South Carolina alone, 650 people were waiting as of Sept. 15, said Sue Poveromo, a spokeswoman for LifePoint, the federal agency that handles organ and tissue recoveries in South Carolina. Of those, 597 people were awaiting a kidney, 29 were on the list for a liver, 14 for a pancreas and kidney, and 14 for a heart, among other organs, she said.

Mr. Langer, 65 and a retired Anderson County Library circulation department employee, waited two and a half years to obtain his kidney, finally undergoing the transplant in March 2005, he said. That came after he entered renal failure and his doctor put him on the waiting list.

"I have a family history of kidney disease," Mr. Langer said.

While his condition, called polycystic kidney disease, was discovered in his 20s, it took years for the disease to reach the point that required dialysis to cleanse his blood.

"I tried to stay off dialysis as much as I could ... but it got to the point where I was wasting away," he said.

Mr. Langer said organ or tissue recipients must be on call 24 hours a day because when the call comes, they must go to the transplant hospital almost immediately. His transplant came after two false alarms, once when he was nearly wheeled in for surgery only to have it called off, and another time when he was told to get ready to drive to Charleston, but then canceled. The procedure was eventually done at the University of South Carolina Medical Center in Charleston, a transplant center.

After the transplant, Mr. Langer said he was amazed at the difference.

"I woke up expecting to be in a world of hurt and I actually felt wonderful," he said. "I could tell a big difference in the way I felt."

Susan Kilby, a Seneca resident, lost her son about 14 years ago when he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle. He was 11.

"He was unconscious from that," said Ms. Kilby, who had named her son, Kilby Seigler after her maiden name. "He had a head injury that caused brain death. He was on life support and there was no brain activity whatsoever."

The family decided to donate his organs: heart, liver, lungs and kidneys. A 13-year-old Texas boy with cystic fibrosis received her son's lungs. A 50-year-old man received his heart. A man from Irmo received one of his kidneys. Another kidney recipient, who has since died, lived in South Carolina.

There is a racial disparity to one aspect of donations, and that is the need for more kidneys for blacks, said Ms. Poveromo. Of those 597 people on the kidney waiting list in South Carolina, 413 are black, she said.

One of the kidneys donated by the family of Kilby went to a black man in Irmo, Ms. Kilby said. That's unusual in that it is difficult to make that kind of match, she said.

Transplants are difficult for both families, Ms. Poveromo said. While one is gaining life, another is grieving. LifePoint works with both the donor and recipient families, often long after the transplant has occurred, she said.

After his transplant, Mr. Langer chose to enter the U.S. Transplant Games, held last year in Louisville, Ky. He was one of 40 members of Team South Carolina that rode a bus to Louisville. Mr. Langer, who swims often at the Sheppard Swim Center, entered the 50-meter freestyle race three months after his transplant. He won a bronze medal, but that wasn't the point, he said.

"Some of the athletes that come in last get more applause than the winners," Mr. Langer said.

Mr. Langer and Ms. Kilby say they are never far from the transplant issue. Mr. Langer, who has not met the donor's family, said he went through a period when he felt guilty about receiving an organ, that someone had to die "to give me life."

"I think about the donor every day, I think of the family," he said.

Ms. Kilby uses speaking engagements to make sure others are aware of the benefits of being an organ donor. And to keep her son's memory alive.

"I miss my son every day, even though he's been gone 14 years," she said. "Had we not chosen for him to be a donor, we would have just buried him. I can see that these other five people have had a better life because of him."

-A FOLLOW UP STORY-

Giving life in the midst of death:
One man meets the family of his savior
By Charmaine Smith Anderson Independent-Mail
November 30, 2006

On the side of a tree standing in the AnMed Health Medical Center lobby hangs a small photo of a man. In the photo, the man is wearing a police uniform and a huge smile.

That man - Anderson County Sheriff's deputy Alex Burdette - is the reason that another man, Beau Langer, was able to hang other ornaments on that same tree Thursday.

"Alex Burdette is my hero," Mr. Langer said, stifling back tears.

And he didn't hesitate to speak Mr. Burdette's name Thursday at a ceremony honoring organ donors.

A 27-year-old father of two, Mr. Burdette died in March 2005 as he tried to help a stranded motorist on S.C. 81 South. Mr. Burdette was directing traffic around the stopped car when he was hit by another vehicle.

Hours after his death, Mr. Langer, 65, received the call he had waited two and a half years for. He would receive the kidney he needed since his body entered renal failure.

Mr. Langer was one of about 50 people who stood inside the lobby of the hospital on Fant Street in Anderson to honor organ donors. Family members told stories of how they lost a son, a wife, a husband, a brother, a sister or a child, and how that loss - fortunately - turned into life for someone else. Then each hung an ornament on the tree in honor of his or her loved one.

It wasn't until about three months ago that Mr. Burdette's death and Mr. Langer's life-saving phone call were connected and Mr. Langer learned the name of his hero.

When an article appeared in the Independent-Mail in September, featuring Mr. Langer and his story, Mr. Burdette's wife, Nicole, read the story and was struck by several details in the article. She wondered if the picture she was looking at was the person saved by her husband's kidney.

"There it was - this story at my doorstep," Ms. Burdette said. "I took it as a sign. I had to know."

So she started calling people. Eventually, she connected with Mr. Langer via e-mail. In October they finally met in person. Both attended a memorial service for officers and public safety officers who have died in the line of duty.

Ms. Burdette said, with a laugh, that she ran to catch Mr. Langer that day as he was preparing to leave the service.

"It was just good for me to know that I didn't make the decision - go through all of that - for nothing," Ms. Burdette said.

She said it took 28 hours after her husband's death to finalize the paperwork to ensure his organs were donated. Several of those hours were spent trying to make sure if that was the right decision.

On Thursday, Mr. Langer was able to hug Ms. Burdette and thank her for the gift of life her husband had given him.

"Carrying on his life - it's important to me," Mr. Langer said. "At least, he lives through me now."

URL: http://www.independentmail.com/and/news/article/0,1886,AND_8203_5181666,00.html Charmaine Smith can be reached
at (864) 260-1260 or by e-mail at
smithca@IndependentMail.com.

Click for my 2006 Transplant Games Team SC photos