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2018 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Sherry Linzmeier

Sherry Linzmeier turned her tragic loss into a mission to promote the importance of organ donation.

 

Twenty-one years ago, Sherry Linzmeier experienced one of the worst days in her life when her son, Dan, was involved in a car crash that left him brain dead. Though she and her husband, Ron, had never talked with their son about organ donation, they both agreed that they wanted to give the gift of life to others through Dan’s organs. She now says it was the best decision they ever made.

 

Then and Now

 

Then: Statewide donation education was managed by a small group of employees.

 

Now: More than 150 trained volunteers work to educate others about donation and transplantation.

 

Learn how you can promote organ and tissue donation

 

Across the span of more than two decades, that decision has led to more relationships and opportunities than Sherry and Ron could have ever dreamed. Dan was able to donate his heart, liver, pancreas and both kidneys to a total of four recipients. His parents have had contact with all four recipients, and they have been fortunate enough to meet three of them. One man, the heart recipient, has had frequent contact with them, and they now exchange Christmas cards with him and his family. Six months after Dan died, Sherry began volunteering for UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD) as a speaker at driver’s education classes. Dan, 21, had been drinking and driving without a seatbelt when he lost his life, and she wanted to share her experience with teenagers and encourage them to become organ donors.

 

“I feel that education helps people make informed decisions,” says Sherry. “It helped us deal with Dan’s death — to know that something good came out of it. We didn’t just bury our 21-year-old son for nothing.”

 

The Linzmeier family has attended the Transplant Games of America several times as fans and supporters for Team Wisconsin. Decked out in cheese necklaces and hats and toting inflatable cows along with the rest of the Wisconsin fans, they have cherished the opportunity to watch athletes who have gone from being very ill to accomplishing great things through the gift of life.

 

As the years have passed, Sherry has cut back on her volunteering, but she still answers the occasional call to talk to others about organ donation.

 

“A lot of that has to do with the recipients we have met over the years,” says Sherry. “We’ve seen how they cherish life. Dan’s heart recipient was told he could expect to live another three years, and he’s still here.” “Sometimes I wonder what Dan would be doing today if he had lived,” says Sherry. “But since we don’t have him here, we can keep his memory alive by promoting organ donation.”

 

Read more stories from the 2018 Transplant calendar