Couple to wait for needed organs

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Garry Sanders’ troubles started in May 1976 when the slip of aknife during routine surgery caused an infection in the main arteryfeeding his small intestine.

As a result, he had to have all but 14 inches of the intestineremoved. With very little small intestine to absorb food for him,his body would have starved itself without the intravenous feedingshe gives himself daily.

Add to that a family history of polycystic kidneys, and Sandersneeds more than the usual medicines. He needs a completely newsmall intestine, as well as new kidneys.

“Well, we have to find a tissue match,” said Sanders. “Anddoctors say that both organs will probably have to come from thesame donor.”

Mississippi does not currently have facilities to replace asmall intestine, so James Laird of the Mississippi Organ RecoveryAgency started connecting the dots to help Sanders and his wifeJanet, who have been married 24 years. Laird’s son Jonathan had atransplant years ago in Omaha, Neb., and he was able to put theSanders in touch with the right people there in hopes of helpingthe couple.

“God just allowed me to be in the right place at the righttime,” said Laird.

What transpired is going to be a memory of a tougher time forthe Sanderses once a transplant comes through. Today they begin thejourney by car to their new life in Nebraska, one they sayhopefully will be just a vacation when it’s all done.

“It’s 911 miles up there,” said Sanders, who is also on kidneydialysis. “We’ll have to stop half way in a motel room to hook meup to my food source. But then we just live there and wait untilthe transplants come through.”

In the case of a small intestine transplant, there is afour-hour window during which the transplant can be made. Thus, theSanderses have to be in close proximity to the hospital where thetransplant will be done. So uprooting, at least for a little while,is a must.

But the transition certainly doesn’t come easy. It involves allthe usual parts of moving: transferring the bank accounts, theelectricity and the mail – all on top of the emotional toll ittakes.

“We’re just so thankful we have friends and family and people inthe community to get us through this,” said Mrs. Sanders.

It is hope that makes all the trouble and waiting and prayingworth it all.

“I just have to believe there’s a better life than the one I’mliving now,” said Sanders.

The emotional process is much larger than simply moving andwaiting for the phone to ring. There’s the understanding that theorgans have to come from a deceased donor.

“We’ve been trying to get these transplants for years,” saidSanders. “And this time we can just feel it coming into place. I’mjust really grateful that I have this opportunity.”

Mrs. Sanders added the need for awareness for organ donors.

“I wish people were more aware that there’s a real need outthere for organs,” she said. “You can give a life, just by being anorgan donor. And you never know when it could be someone in yourfamily that needs it.”

Sanders said he hopes to be home soon. He also hopes to be backto full strength within a matter of time – maybe even strong enoughrestart his Triple-S Handyman Service.

In the meantime, he has a message for all those he and Janet areleaving behind.

“Pray for us and think of us,” he said. “Pray for the handymanin the little yellow truck.”