Paul Lynch died unexpectantly of a brain aneurysm in 1996. The family honored his wishes by donating his heart and other organs for transplant surgery. Chuck Handschy of Fort Wayne received Paul's heart.
After a year, the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization (IOPO) provides an avenue for a recipient and donor family to meet if it's desired by both parties. Bonnie wanted to meet Chuck but he needed more time even though they'd corresponded by mail and phone. And he preferred to make the connection on his own rather than go through IOPO. He needed the privacy and just wanted it to be between his family and Bonnie's family.
Guilt feelings are common for recipients. And it's not unusual that the wife of a donor might develop a romantic interest in a male recipient because he carries the heart of her spouse.
It took five years before Chuck was emotionally ready to meet Bonnie. By-passing IOPO, he located her with the help of the Internet.
"My mother and I first met Chuck and his wife, Barbara, on July 5, 2001," Bonnie said. I got a heart shaped cake to give him. It seemed appropriate. When I'd been around him just five minutes, I knew Paul's heart had gone to the right person.
"He's so grateful," Bonnie continued, "and the kind of person who will never take this for granted.
"He had nothing to do with Paul's death and I'm just grateful someone as nice as Chuck and his family could benefit."
Chuck reflected on the emotional aspect of receiving a heart transplant.
"You feel pretty good at times," Chuck said. "Other times I sit and think about it. When I got Bonnie's first letter I just sat and cried.
"Sometimes It's still hard to read," Chuck continued. "I can still cry today. I think, Paul's life had to end for mine to continue."
"I got to see my son get married. I got to walk my daughter down the aisle. My wife and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. Those are all things I would never have been able to do if it hadn't been for Paul Lynch and his family. I'll never forget his name."
The Indiana Organ Procurement Organization reported that 55 hearts were transplanted in Indiana in 2002. There are currently 40 patients in Indiana who are awaiting a heart transplant.
The cost for the donor family stops when the patient is declared dead. Then costs are picked up by IOPO and/or the recipient and his insurance company.
The Donor Choice Law was enacted July 1, 2001, changing the Uniform Anatomical Gift Law of 1960. It says the family can't interfere with a person's desire to donate organs if that wish is documented in writing and the person is 18 or older.
To learn how to become an organ donor or to request more information, individuals may call 1-888-ASK-IOPO, or visit www.iopo.org.
Actually 23 to 33 people benefited from Paul Lynch's donations. Besides his heart, doctors used his corneas, bone and skin. Most people give a candy heart for Valentine's Day to show that they care. Paul Lynch gave his own heart to help another person. That's love.