Man receives double organ transplant from relative of childhood friend

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SALT LAKE CITY — When Chad Coates makes the drive from Twin Falls, Idaho to University hospital, it's a tough drive in many ways.

"I hate being poked and prodded," Coates said.

But as much as Coates hates the doctor visits, it's better than the alternative.

"I know that if I don't, I won't be here for my family," he said, thinking of his three teenage kids and wife back home.

Coates had been living with Type 1 diabetes since he was 12 years old.

"Have a needle shoved in my arm 4 times a week," Coates described his routine insulin shots to stay alive.

"Diabetes ravages you," said Dr. Jeffrey Campsen, University Hospital's surgical director for living donation. "Even though insulin puts it at bay, it still completely eats away at their bodies."

But now his diabetes is gone and he is healthy thanks to a childhood friend.

Rob Osburne said he and Coates have a much deeper connection because Osburne's family made a decision that saved Coates' life.

Diabetes ravages you. Even though insulin puts it at bay, it still completely eats away at their bodies.

–Dr. Jeffrey Campsen, University Hospital

Osburne's uncle, Mark Koener, died in a car crash in October. He said his uncle was like a brother to him. His death was another blow to the family because Koener's mother had died one month previous to his car crash. His family wanted to donate his organs.

"He's the only one that I knew that needed a transplant," Osburne said. "When my mother said that she was going to donate his organs, I just put two and two together real quick."

Coates said he was sound asleep one Sunday morning when his friend called and told him he wanted to donate his uncle's kidney and pancreas. Coates immediately called University Hospital to see if he would be a match. On Oct. 23, 2013 after six hours of surgery, Coates' body functions better with a new kidney and pancreas.

"It's a day that my life began again," he said. "It's hard for me to think that somebody's got to die to help me to live."

All three men were close in age, and Mark Koener and Rob Osburne have known Coates since about the same time his diabetes emerged. Koener's sister Diana said she just wanted something good to come out of the tragedy.

"Chad made the comment to me, 'now we're blood related,' " she remembered. "And I said 'yes, I lost a little brother and gained a little brother.' "

Osburne said that his uncle made a generous gift that will have a lasting impact.

"He was the type that always wanted to make a mark somehow," said Osburne.

For Coates the scar on his stomach is that mark, a generous gift, permanently etched over his stomach and his heart.

"They say miracles don't happen," said Coates. "This was a miracle."

Mark Koener's family does not know the other families who received Mark's other kidney and liver but hope those organs also saved lives.


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