Organ donor's father bikes from Madison to Florida, encouraging others to give life

MADISON | David Wahlberg 
Distraught over his daughter’s sudden death at age 20, Bill Conner, of Oregon, is bicycling 2,600 miles to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she became an organ donor, to encourage people to register as donors.

Abbey Conner, a junior at UW-Whitewater, and her brother, Austin, 23, were found in January at the bottom of a pool in Cancun, Mexico, during a family trip. He survived, but she didn’t.

Bill Conner believes someone slipped drugs into his children’s drinks. Whatever the cause, he is bringing attention to one way people can generate comfort in such tragedies: by donating their organs.

“Don’t be selfish and bury something that could help somebody else live, or live a better life,” he said.

Conner, 57, left the Madison area May 22, the day after Austin graduated from UW-Milwaukee. He plans to reach Fort Lauderdale by July 10. He’ll visit Broward Health Medical Center, where Abbey donated her organs, and scatter her ashes in the ocean.

On Sunday, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he met 21-year-old Loumonth Jack Jr., who received Abbey’s heart. Jack, who had two heart attacks from a viral infection, presented Conner with a stethoscope so he could listen to his daughter’s heart beating inside Jack’s chest. Continue reading

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