Westby man receives gift of life from love of his life

Couple advocating for more organ donors

On average, about 18 people die every day because of a shortage of donated organs.

More than 119,000 people in the U.S are currently waiting for an organ transplant. And every 10 minutes, a new name is added to the waiting list.

A Westby man was one of the lucky ones.

You could call it luck, you could call it fate, but there’s no denying the love that bonds David and Wanda Johnson of Westby.

“She has blessed my life in ways that are just, there’s not enough words to say thank you,” said David.

The two met online almost 3 years ago and got married about a year later on 10-11-12. “We were friends, then we became best friends, and then we became husband and wife,” said Wanda.

For years, David has struggled with health issues. In fact, he’s been living with a cadaver kidney since a transplant back in 1995. “It’s worked great, but age and wear and tear from the anti-rejection meds have worn it out.”

After the first transplant, David says he was given his life back.

“It was just like somebody turned a light switch on, the way you felt. All of the sudden you went from being tired all the time to having energy and feeling like doing things again.”

Now, he’s back on dialysis and in need of another transplant. But this time, he didn’t have to look any farther than across the kitchen table.

“When I found that his was failing, I told him, I’m going to donate,” said Wanda.

“She said, ‘I gave birth to two beautiful children by c-section, I can give you a gift of life.’ She said ‘I want you for many, many years to share a life with’ and how are you going to argue with that?”

Wanda says she never even gave it a second thought. “I’m not doing it for praise and glory, I’m doing it because I love him.”

David said, “it is the gift of life. Without it, my life becomes contained to dialysis 3 times a week or being tied every night to a dialysis machine at home.”

Now, David and Wanda want others to know what a difference they too can make in someone else’s life.

“If you were blind and you received a cornea transplant, what kind of emotions would you have the first time you saw your child or your wife for the very first time? To see those emotions in a family and to see life come back, instead of existence, that’s what’s so moving to me,” said David.

Wanda said, “just knowing that you don’t have to be a family member, you can be a complete stranger and you can donate and that’s what I think is so amazing.”

For David and Wanda, it’s not a new beginning, but rather a new chapter as they exchange the greatest gifts of all.

“To express my love, all I can do is give her my heart and she’s had that since day one,” said David.

“We always knew God brought us together for a reason so not only to enjoy the rest of our life together, but to better his life.”

An update to this story: David and Wanda successfully underwent the transplant surgeries at UW-Hospital in Madison in late January.

They both were able to leave the hospital just 3 days after the transplant.

David says he’s feeling a lot better and they both feel very blessed for all of the support they’ve received.

Some of the support has come from a transplant support group at Vernon Memorial Hospital.

Their meetings are held the third Monday of each month and are open to anyone who’s awaiting a transplant or who’s already had a transplant and their family.

For more information, call Bonnie Anderson at 608-637-4292.

To become an organ donor in Wisconsin, you need to register your name on the Wisconsin Donor Registry. Otherwise, you can find your state’s registry here.

Keep in mind, having the orange donor dot sticker on your driver’s license is not sufficient, unless you received it on or after March 29, 2010.