Part 1 of 2
After Paul Lynch was declared brain dead, a heart scan was done that determined his heart was in good shape. The 45-year-old father of Angie, Joe and Kristin Lynch, had an undiagnosed brain aneurysm that ruptured April 4,1996.
Paul's wife, Bonnie, had long been registered as an organ donor. Her kind, thoughtful husband, frequently called the neighborhood handy man, had discussed signing up as a donor, also, just two weeks before. But he assumed that being a diabetic for 10 years would disqualify him.
"The doctors had to assure me that when you're brain dead, you're dead and there is no coming back," said a sad eyed Bonnie Lynch recalling the tragic event. "Paul had commented to me that if anything happened to him he would gladly donate anything of his that was usable.
"So when the doctor told us Paul could not be saved the kids and I talked about donating his organs and decided that'd be what Paul wanted," Bonnie continued. "Somehow, to me, it made a little sense out of Paul's death. It helped make it so his death didn't seem like such a waste."
The Indiana Organ Procurement Organization was contacted to start the search for a suitable recipient immediately.
Charles "Chuck" Handschy, of Fort Wayne, had to quit his substation mechanic job because of cardiomyopathy. The 49-year-old father of two had been on the waiting list for a heart transplant for two years. When his condition deteriorated to the point that he had to be hospitalized his name went to the top of the list.
Even in the hospital the normal wait could be three to six months. Chuck had been in the hospital just nine days when his doctor told him his condition was worsening rapidly. He may have only a couple weeks to live without a new heart. Chuck and his family were about to give up hope when a heart became available.
"The hardest part then was the waiting," Chuck said. "Timing is crucial so they take you to the operating room as soon as a heart is available even without knowing if it's a good match. I tried to stay calm. You can really get worked up. I heard that one man had a heart attack while he was waiting in the operating room because he got so excited."
After a heart is removed from the donor it must be transplanted within four hours. Tests have to be run to assure that donor and recipient are compatible. It was nearly an hour before the Handschys were notified it was a go.
"My wife and brother-in-law saw the medical personnel bring the heart in. They actually carried it in a Playmate cooler like you see on TV," Chuck said.
And Chuck was given a new life when he received Paul Lynch's heart.
Tomorrow: Chuck Handschy and Bonnie Lynch finally meet.