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Organ donor walks across the country to promote his cause

March 05, 2012

Harry Kiernan, a two-time organ donor, stopped at Yale-New Haven Hospital on Monday, March 19, to talk about his 3,300-mile walk across America to encourage more people to donate organs.
Kiernan was preparing to take off on a route that will take him through New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville and St. Louis. With over 1,200 miles completed, he says he will continue through Kansas City, Topeka, Denver and Las Vegas, ending in Los Angeles the first week of July.

At a gathering in front of the hospital, transplant surgeon Sukru Emre, MD, chief of transplantation surgery, along with other transplant surgeons, physicians, nurse coordinators, medical students, transplant floor nurses and colleagues, congratulated Kiernan on the endeavor. Dr. Emre commented that it should be no surprise that Kiernan has also been a Vietnam veteran and a firefighter. “If you look at our other altruistic donors, most are veterans, firefighters and policemen,” Dr. Emre said. “These people were on the front lines in life and death situations. They have a different view of life than others.”

Walking, biking and swimming

Kiernan says his “Walk of 2012”will pass through populated areas where people will be encouraged to participate, even if only for a short stroll. He plans to ride a bike part of the way, and put on a mask and snorkel and swim part of the Mississippi River. “I can do it. I don’t expect everyone to do it, but I can do it,” he said. Organ procurement representatives will be on hand to educate and register potential donors.

Kiernan, 57, the founder and executive director of the National Living Organ Donors Foundation, Inc. in Glastonbury, Conn., is one of a small handful of living people to have donated multiple organs. He donated one kidney and part of his liver to patients waiting for transplants he had never met. He hopes to become a bone marrow donor as well.

Intensely interested in saving lives

Several years ago, he attended a seminar on organ donation that so resonated with him that he became intensely interested in the ability to save lives through living organ donations. He donated his left kidney was given to a 52-year-old librarian, wife and mother, who he then met one month later. The woman had been on the kidney transplant waiting list for four years.

In 2010, Dr. Emre took the left lobe of Harry’s liver and transplanted it into an 11-month-old, 10-pound, baby girl who would not have survived another month without it.

"If you have the ability to change someone's life, to make it better in whatever way possible, then you have the responsibility to do that," Kiernan told WTNH.

For more information on the walk, visit the National Living Organ Donors Foundation, Inc. website.

Submitted by Mark Santore on December 16, 2013