An officer's gift of life
LIVERMORE — Michael Lause knows he shouldn't be here.
He is aware of how fortunate he is to be able to pull weeds from the garlic growing in his backyard, how lucky he is to be able to mow his lawn each week. and, he appreciates that baths no longer take an hour for him to finish.
A year an a half ago, Lause was near death with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a respiratory disease that causes lungs to lose their ability to produce oxygen. Doctors said he had a month to live unless a lung donor was found.
"You take things for granted until you can't do them," said Lause. "Just to be able to breathe again is a blessing."
In October 2008, one family's tragedy became Lause's blessing.
Richmond police Officer Brad Moody was responding to an officer's call for help on Oct. 4, 2008 when his patrol car crashed into a light pole, while driving on a rain-slicked road.
Moody, a 7-year department veteran and father of two young girls., died three days later. A few days after, Lause's doctor and told him they had a donor and to head to the hospital.
Now, 56, Lause takes full advantage of what life offers, and cherishes each breath. "I received someone else's lungs and that is a miracle," Lause said as he fought back tears. "It is a wonderful thing to be living."
On Saturday, Lause will take part in the second annual California Peace Officers Association Memorial Run at Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreaztion Area in Pleasanton. It benefits the Northern California chapter of the Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), a group that helps families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
For a second year, Lause will walk the 5k portion. He is also going for two other reasons. Lause will reunite with Moody's wife, Susan Moody, whom he first met in April 2009 transplant donor remembrance ceremony, and to meet Moody's 3- and 4-year old daughters. He will also be there to encourage organ donations.
"The first six months after my husband was killed I was numb," said Susan Moody. "But it was bittersweet. Michael is alive because my husband is not."
After his transplant, Lause was spurred into action, sharing his story to high school freshman throughout the Bay Area and talking about the importance of donors.
Lause has been a donor for years, but never thought much about the box he had checked off years ago at the DMV. It wasn't until July 2005, when he was diagnosed with the disease, that he understood what it meant.
A camping trip to Shaver Lake the summer before gave Lause a hint that he was sick. At 6-foot-8, Lause was always physically active playing basketball in college and running in adulthood. But during that trip, Lause couldn't keep up with his family, having to take multiple breaks to catch his breath.
Three years later, Lause was bedridden and attached to two oxygen machines.
The Moodys had also not paid much attention to the choice of becoming organ donors, except for checking the box. But when Moody died, doctors asked Susan Moody if she wanted her husband's organs donated.
Still stung by the loss of the love of her life, her first reaction was to resist.
"We were both 29 and didn't talk about (donating)," said Susan Moody. "... But I thought to myself, Brad saved lives every day working as a police officer and what better way to go out of this world than to save more lives?"
Her decision saved five lives. His pancreas, liver, kidneys and heart also helped others.
Lause honored Moody at last year's run too. While there he sought out families of officers from Richmond and told them he had received Moody's lungs.
"Someone saved my life at the end of theirs and its the donor families that deserve all the honor," he said. "They are the ones that deserve the thank yous. They are the true heroes."