For years ICU nurse & unit coordinator, Diane Nickloy took care of transplant patients, never knowing her own husband would become one.

April is National Donate Life Month

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More than 115,000 men, women, and children sit on the transplant list, waiting for a miracle.

On average, 22 people die each day because the organs they need are not donated in time. 

Over the years, Diane Nickloy has cared for a number of those patients in her role as an Intensive Care Unit Nurse and Unit Coordinator at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. But, it was almost four years ago, roles were reversed when Diane learned her husband, Dan was in desperate need of a transplant.

“My husband got sick very quickly,” remembers Diane, “Our daughter was getting married in May of that year and we decided we needed to get healthy so that we’d look good in our tux and our dress. Dan hadn’t been to the doctors in 15 years, so he said, ‘I’m going to make an appointment and go,’ and he did. While he wasn’t feeling sick or anything, the doctor discovered an atrial flutter or abnormal heart rhythm. From there, the doctor decided to do lab work as a precaution. When the labs came back days later, it showed Dan had abnormal liver function.”

Dan, who was just 61 at the time, went from feeling a little tired to dealing with a major health crisis, “Once I had my diagnosis, my disease progressed rapidly,” remembers Dan. “I learned very early transplant was the only cure. My first thought was I was going to die and I wasn’t ready. I had a lot to do in life and I was going to miss out.”

That May, Dan was able to walk his only daughter down the aisle at her wedding, but soon after he was admitted to the hospital, “I was getting sicker. I didn’t think I was ever coming home, and prepared to say my goodbyes,” he remembers. “Then, one night the doctor came in, put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Mr. Nickloy, we have a liver. Are you ready to go?’”

Dan says that today, July 17, 2014, marks a miracle and the second chapter of his life. 

The Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) says that’s what it’s all about, “Organ donation means lives saved!” explains Valerie Schneider, Media Relations and Communications Manager for WRTC, “For every organ donor, there’s the potential to save 8 lives. For those waiting on the transplant list, there’s nothing more meaningful than the gift of life.”

In the D.C. metropolitan area, where thousands of people are on the transplant list, only about 67% of the adult population are registered as donors. One reason could be the myth that donors won’t receive the same level of care should they be injured or come to the hospital.

“When someone passes, they are evaluated by a highly skilled team to determine their donation capability. Nobody is ruled out for donation because of age, race, or social status; the medical evaluation determines the donation potential,” says Schneider.

The Nickloy family doesn’t know much about the person whose gift made Dan’s life possible, only that he was 25-years-old and killed in an automobile accident. While Dan has asked to meet the donor’s family, they haven’t taken him up on his request. He just wants them to know how grateful he really is, “I feel I was part of a miracle,” he says, “My only regret is I never got to meet the family who made the selfless act to donate their loved one's organ in their time of grief, so I could live a better, fuller life.”

That fuller life includes the birth of his grandson, Brooks. Without the donation of a liver, Dan wouldn’t have been alive to meet him. It’s a gift he doesn’t take for granted, “Today I feel great. I’m 65 and have more energy than I ever did. I have a positive outlook. I have changed my diet, I don’t smoke or drink. I don’t take a moment here on earth for granted. I make sure I spend time with family and friends, you never know what the future holds,” says Dan.

Dan also shares his experience to raise awareness. He encourages people to become donors themselves, “Organ donation is a gift to others that allows their life to go on. I want donor families to know that your generous decision to donate your loved ones’ organs will be received with dignity and respect.”

To learn more and to register to become a donor, go to BeADonor.org.