The tragic loss of Kylie “Ky” Von Ruden on July 15, 2012, came full circle on June 21, 2014, when James “Jim” Dougherty crossed the finished line of the second annual “Ky’s Run/Walk” with his arms raised high in honor of a young woman he never knew, but whose spirit lives on through him.
Dougherty, age 69, of Rockford, IL., got his second chance at life on July 16, 2012, the day after Kylie, age 17, died as a result of an automobile accident near Chaseburg. Her parents, Bruce and Shirley Von Ruden, signed an organ transplant release at the hospital before Kylie was disconnected from the life-support machines that were keeping her alive and she passed away.
In need of a kidney, Dougherty had been on the organ transplant list for two years and seven months. A retired surgeon, he had done all the research and completed all the health education classes in preparation for life on dialysis. With time running short he was days away from being placed on dialysis when, while visiting friends in Lake Geneva, he got the call that a donor kidney had been located. Within hours, he arrived at the medical center at UW-Madison, and was in the operating room receiving a gift of life from a beautiful stranger, whose tragic loss, became his silver lining.
In 1999, Dougherty was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a cystic genetic kidney disorder, that dates back generations in the Dougherty family. PKD is one of the most common life-threatening
genetic diseases, affecting an estimated 12.5 million people worldwide. It is characterized by the growth of multiple cysts inside the kidneys. The numerous cysts are fluid-filled, resulting in massive enlargement of the kidneys, which eventually shut down the organs over time. The disease can also damage the liver, pancreas and in some rare cases, the heart and brain.
Dougherty was in his 50s when he began developing symptoms of PKD, but was not placed on the transplant list until 2011, when his health began deteriorating and he met the urgency criteria to be placed on the national transplant list. Having “O” positive blood, Dougherty, landed on the longest waiting list for an organ transplant.
“They told me it could take 2.5 years and it was 2 years, 7 months,” Dougherty said.
In an untypical twist, his wife, Jeannine, was actually a transplant match for her husband, but after suffering breast cancer herself years earlier, doctors felt the best option for Jim was to placed on the transplant list.
Within five days of the surgery, Dougherty, was out of the hospital and feeling like a new man. His body accepted Kylie’s kidney and with the right mix of anti-rejection medication the priceless gift he received should last him a lifetime.
Shortly after returning home, Dougherty, received a special letter from the hospital. The letter, although censored for privacy reasons, was from Bruce and Shirley VonRuden, who at the time they agreed to transplant Kylie’s organs had requested to know who the recipient’s of her kidneys, provided there was mutual consent from the receiving party.
In his heart, Dougherty knew his blessing was the result of another person’s loss and he felt compelled to reach out to the family. With pen in hand, he tried to put into words his gratitude and exchanged a few letters with the family, even suggesting the chance to meet them.
Still grieving their tragic loss, the VonRuden’s weren’t ready for a face-to-face meeting early on. The emotional roller coaster they had traveled since Kylie’s death would require more time to heal. The healing process reached the next level last month, when Bruce and Shirley, shook hands and exchanged hugs with Dougherty at a Madison restaurant where they had agreed to meet.
The heartfelt exchange lasted for hours as the Dougherty family learned more about the young woman who gave Jim his second chance at life and the VonRuden family learned more about the man their beloved daughter is living on through.
“It was a very emotional meeting, but filled with love, hope and gratitude. She must have been an amazing woman, because she has an amazing family,” Dougherty said.
To honor Kylie and her family, Jim and Jeannine participated in the second annual “Ky’s Run/Walk” in Chaseburg, on Saturday, June 21. They walked the 3.1 miles and crossed the finish line with pride. The event doubled the population of the community for a single day as Ky’s family, friends, classmates, neighbors and strangers celebrated the life of a young woman, whose short life now lives on through the transplant recipients she has given a second chance at living to.
“It’s like the bookends on the end of a story. No words can ever express how grateful and honored I am to have been the recipient of Kylie’s kidney. I am blessed,” Dougherty said.
Source: Westby Times