BY RACHEL RAUSCH • POST-CRESCENT WEST
NEW LONDON — Dick McClone doesn’t appear to be dying. But unfortunately, looks are deceiving.
McClone, 55, is on waiting lists to receive heart and liver transplants that will save his life. But he doesn’t want to focus on his medical issues. He’d rather discuss the dire need for organ donors in general.
“There are so many misconceptions about organ donation,” he said. “Anyone can be a donor. There’s no age limit. One donor can have a positive affect on 50 people and save seven lives.”
Dick, his wife, Connie, and their four children are doing the best they can to maintain a normal routine. Dick still goes to work at his full-time job at Sara Lee. He and Connie still frequently take walks together around town and attend their son’s sporting events.
“We just do things a little slower and nothing strenuous,” Dick said.
“We keep ourselves busy and keep our minds occupied,” Connie added.
Dick also takes precautionary measures to stay as healthy as he can, like not shaking hands with others.
“It’s very awkward for me not to shake hands,” said the lifelong New London resident. “I’m a very outgoing person.”
Last year after a bevy of tests, Dick was diagnosed with hereditary amyloidosis, a rare disease that occurs when substances called amyloid proteins build up in a person’s organs. Amyloid is an abnormal protein usually produced by cells in the bone marrow that can be deposited in any tissue or organ.
Amyloidosis can affect different organs in different people but often affects the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. The cause is unknown.
In Dick’s case, the amyloid protein originated in his liver, which is in pristine condition, and was deposited into his heart, substantially thickening its walls. He isn’t in danger of a heart attack. His heart will simply stop.
The disease results as a cumulative effect over time and usually isn’t discovered until the person is in their late 40s to early 60s.
Since his diagnosis, the McClones must travel to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. every three months to monitor Dick’s heart function. He’s moved up on the transplant lists slightly.
“When we go to Mayo, we see people who are so deathly ill waiting for transplants and wonder why are we in the room,” Dick said.
“I’ve always been a donor. I have the donor dot on my driver’s license, but never in a million years had I thought I’d need (a transplant) and be on the other side of the coin.”
As the McClones forge ahead with daily life, they’ve been learning more about Dick’s long road to recovery and have dedicated themselves to raising awareness about organ donation. They point to the fact that the number of organs that can be used in transplants has increased with the development of modern medicine.
“There are so many organs they can use now,” Dick said. “It’s not just heart and kidneys and livers. They can take skin for burn victims, bones, eyes, heart valves.
“Even if 50 percent of people would be donors, it would cover the need pretty well.”
But the McClones understand that making the decision to become an organ donor isn’t an easy one.
“It’s a hard thing for people to talk about. It’s even difficult for us,” Connie said. “But it’s better to discuss it with your family and let them know of your wishes before something happens. You don’t want to have to make that decision in an emergency room. It’s a lot easier if the decision to be a donor has already been made.”
The McClones stressed that the donor dot people can affix to their driver’s license isn’t legally binding and can be overruled by a family member in an emergency situation. People who wish to be organ donors must sign up on an official registry.
The McClones’ employers, family, friends and community have stepped up to assist them throughout this difficult time. A golf outing benefit was held earlier this month and anther benefit will be held Oct. 23 at Crystal Falls Banquet Facility.
“The support has been overwhelming, phenomenal,” Dick said. “We’re very appreciative. If we needed help, with one phone call we know we’d have 10 people here.
“But it’s hard for me to stand back and watch people do things for me. I’m not used to that.”
IF YOU GO
What: The Dick McClone Family Benefit
When: 4 p.m. to midnight, Oct. 23
Where: Crystal Falls Banquet Facility, 1500 Handschke Road, New London
Activities: Entertainment by The Mike and Brian Experience; food; raffles; silent auction; money raised will assist the family with medical expenses, travel and housing while at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota
Contact: Mark Heise (920-982-5537) or Chris Sanderfoot (920-250-1216)
How to Help
Monetary donations can be sent to: Most Precious Blood Dick McClone Family Benefit, 1401 Parkview Drive, New London, WI 54961. Receipts for tax deductable donations will be mailed upon request.
How to become an organ donor
To legally register as an organ donor, visit www.yesiwillwisconsin.com. The process takes a few minutes and a person can remove their name from the list at any time.
Organ donation facts
Every 11 minutes, a new person is added to the national organ donor waiting list.
18 people die each day while waiting.
In Wisconsin, there are more than 1,500 people on the waiting list for an organ transplant.
One donor can save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people.
More than 105,500 people are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant
Source: Donate Life Wisconsin