By creator to www.powelltribune.com
As Don Hansen took his first breaths with new lungs, he knew a household was grieving a liked one who had taken his final.
Over the previous 12 months, the longtime Powell resident has discovered extra about his organ donor and the younger man’s household. Benny Laffitte of Douglass, Kansas, died Dec. 9, 2018, following an accident. The 20-year-old helped dozens of others — together with Hansen, who acquired Laffitte’s lungs in a transplant surgical procedure in Colorado.
“It’s the reward of life,” Hansen stated.
On the time of the transplant, Hansen’s personal lungs had declined to the purpose of performing at solely 5% and, after 22 months on the ready checklist, he was in dire want of a transplant. Then got here the decision.
“It was a 100% match — the appropriate tissue, proper dimension, proper blood sort, every part,” Hansen stated.
However the weight of such a present was by no means misplaced on Hansen. Final 12 months, he wrote a letter to his donor’s household by means of a transplant coordinator and donor alliance — and heard again from Benny’s mom, Tammie Laffitte, and sister, Maria.
As they’ve corresponded in latest months, Hansen discovered extra about Benny’s life. At 20 years previous, he had a very good job and owned his personal home.
“He was a really impartial younger man,” stated Tammie.
Though he labored lengthy hours, he usually went over to his mother’s home to assist along with her yard “and do something I wanted executed,” Tammie stated.
Benny additionally did volunteer work and helped with charitable causes.
“The day earlier than he died, he donated the day to place Christmas baskets collectively for the union, after which he went to work from there,” Tammie stated.
Benny had designated cash in his checking account for the meals pantry “if something ever occurs to me.”
He nearly didn’t make it by means of a earlier surgical procedure, so though he was younger, he considered what would occur to his belongings and wished to assist others.
In tributes following his dying, former lecturers, principals and mates remembered Benny for his pleasant smile, good-natured disposition and kindness.
“He was such an incredible younger man,” Tammie stated.
Benny acquired his welding and diesel engine certifications, and was going to be promoted to administration at his work, she stated.
“He had lots of issues to dwell for … it’s arduous for me to make sense of it,” Hansen stated, including, “I’ve needed to ask questions this final 12 months that no human being can reply. Solely the man upstairs can reply them … I’ve obtained to have religion that he did it for a purpose.”
With out the double-lung transplant, “I’d not be alive immediately,” Hansen stated.
His is simply one of many many lives that Benny modified.
Benny’s coronary heart went to an individual in Oklahoma who wasn’t doing nicely, and “they have been making an attempt to make him final till Christmas,” Tammie stated.
She later met the center recipient and heard her son’s heartbeat, “which sounds precisely the identical.”
“There’s just a little woman down in Texas that had leukemia that’s getting the bone marrow which will save her life,” Hansen stated. “There’s a United States soldier that had come again from Afghanistan that had some pores and skin burns from an IED that obtained his pores and skin graft.”
As recipients of Benny’s organs have reached out to his household, Tammie selected to reply, and even meet them when attainable.
“That’s my son’s organs,” she stated. “In the event that they’re carrying my son’s coronary heart, his lungs, liver, kidneys — that’s my son, which makes us all household.”
Benny made the choice to be an organ donor when he was simply 14 years previous and obtained his farm allow.
“I can’t say sufficient about this younger gentleman,” Hansen stated. “They should give a congressional medal of honor — look what number of lives he saved … he saved lives similar to a soldier would, and one among them was me.”
Hansen considers himself “very lucky” that he’s gotten to know extra about his donor and be in contact with the household.
“Not all people will get to do this,” he stated. “Lots of people have no idea who their donors are.”
The primary time Hansen talked with Tammie, there was crying on either side of the telephone line, he stated.
“Wow, I couldn’t get the phrases out of my mouth,” he recalled.
She reassured Hansen that it was OK, and in addition inspired him to exit and dwell his life.
“It’s not that I wanted approval from her or reassurance from her, nevertheless it was good to have it,” Hansen stated.
With sort O detrimental blood, Benny was in a position to assist those that wanted that particular sort. Because the common blood sort, O detrimental donors can provide to anybody. Nevertheless, these with O detrimental blood can solely obtain O detrimental.
Hansen is turning into a spokesperson with the donor alliance to proceed sharing in regards to the significance of signing as much as be an organ donor.
“You’ll want to test that field,” Hansen stated. “You’ll want to be a donor.”
He encourages individuals to donate blood, too.
Hansen, who serves on the Park County Faculty District No. 1 Board of Trustees, additionally hopes to share the message with college students.
In recent times, well being issues pressured Hansen to surrender his farm tools restore enterprise, however he’s working towards turning into a realtor, specializing in agricultural land.
Hansen stated he’s grateful for his household, mates and neighborhood that stood by him by means of the lung transplant and his restoration. He’s grateful for the bond he now shares with Benny’s household, and hopes to fulfill them in particular person sometime.
Hansen additionally appreciates life itself — to get up the following day and breathe.
“I’m having fun with life,” he stated. “And I need to inform this younger man’s story.”
Hansen and Tammie have been on the telephone in December when she stated: “In two minutes, it will likely be a 12 months in the past that I noticed Benny for the final time.”
“Simply hold speaking,” Hansen replied. “I’ll get you thru this. And also you’re going to get me by means of this, too … we have now a bond that may by no means be damaged.”