Our View: Donor shows amazing generosity

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Editorial Board, August through December 2010

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Blythe Terrell, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Rich Lowe, community representative
  • Sue Birch, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— Extraordinary things can happen in a small town. Neighbors reach out to help neighbors, as well as strangers. Good Samaritans return cash found on the ski slopes or wallets left at restaurants. Just look at the events around Routt County — someone always is putting on a benefit for someone somewhere.

But giving a piece of your body to another rises to a new level.

Larry Handing would prefer to stay out of the spotlight. He wasn’t eager to speak to the newspaper or have his name appear in print when the staff found out he’d decided to donate a kidney to Don Toy. But the story is extraordinary and deserves to be told, and Handing and Toy shared their thoughts about the donation last week.

Toy, a tennis coach in Steamboat Springs, has been battling polycystic kidney disease for seven years. He needed a transplant because his kidney function decreased to 20 percent. At 15 percent kidney function, he would have had to begin dialysis.

Handing, a longtime local CPA, isn’t even a close friend of Toy’s. But when he read about Toy’s situation earlier this year, he decided to get tested to see if he was a match.

He was.

It can’t be easy to decide to give away a kidney. There’s surgery and hospital time, and there always are risks involved. Handing’s act, truly, was a selfless one. It went to support another generous member of the Steamboat community: Toy has given hours of his time as an assistant tennis coach at Steamboat Springs High School and longtime teaching pro.

The two men went into surgery Thursday on the Front Range. Everything went well. Handing expects to return to Steamboat on Friday, and Toy is likely to continue receiving treatment at the hospital for about a month.

Last week before the surgery, Toy described his feelings about Handing’s gift.

“I was flabbergasted that someone would do that for me. It’s really cool it’s someone from Steamboat. It says a lot about Steamboat as a community.”

It does. It also says a lot about Handing’s personal generosity, and it speaks to the need for people to register as organ donors.

Before Handing offered to donate his kidney, Toy was on a list of more than 83,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant. In 2008, 6,000 people from the national transplant list got a new kidney. There’s a lot of need out there — and that’s just one type of organ. According to www.organdonor.gov, 108,725 people were waiting for organ or tissue donation as of Sept. 24.

Handing’s decision to donate a kidney goes far beyond signing up to be an organ donor in case of death. But almost any of us can register to help save another when we no longer need our organs.

According to www.organdonor.gov, which includes government information about donation, “Each organ and tissue donor saves or improves the lives of as many as 50 people.”

We know that Handing made an incredible sacrifice to improve one life. He sets a wonderful example for the rest of us, who by the simple act of registering to donate our organs can make an enormous impact on our neighbors — whether we know them or not.

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