Angels come in all shapes and sizes. Some appear out of the blue when needed most, while others are hiding in plain sight. For Delaware resident David Hague, his “earth angel” has been with him from day one – his older sister, Joan Provencher.
Hague, 62, who is originally from New Hampshire, suffers from polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder that causes cysts to grow in the kidneys. Most people with the disease eventually go on dialysis or require a kidney transplant.
For Hague, he was in his early 40s when doctors told him he needed a kidney transplant. It was at that moment 20 years ago when his sister came to the aid of her little brother.
“The minute that my sister, Joan, found out that I needed a kidney transplant, she immediately offered to get tested and be my donor,” Hague said. “She was a six-antigen match (a perfect match) for me and gave me the gift of life that I am forever grateful for.”
Fortunately for Hague and his sister, neither had any complications from their transplant surgeries and both had speedy recoveries.
“My donated kidney is still functioning great today, and my medical support team continues to monitor it with blood draws done on a regular basis and annual checkups,” Hague said, adding the transplant has allowed him to get back to doing things he enjoys like annual whitewater rafting trips in Maine.
As with all difficult journeys in life, Hague said he couldn’t have done it alone.
“I have been truly blessed every day by Joan’s life-saving gift and by amazing support from my medical team, friends and family, especially my amazing wife (of 34 years), Anne, who has been with me every step of the way on my transplant journey.”
While Hague admitted he will never be able to repay his sister, she knows how much she means to him.
In 2006, Hague competed in the Transplant Games of America as a member of Team Ohio.
“I was very blessed to win a bronze medal in my age group in a track and field event at my first games,” he said. “My wife put it in a shadow box and the next time I was back visiting family in New Hampshire, I gave it to my sister, Joan, who wanted me to keep it, but I said, ‘It stays here with you because if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here now.’”
In addition to thanking his sister every chance he gets, Hague also pays it forward by volunteering with Lifeline of Ohio, a nonprofit organization that facilitates the donation of human organs and tissue for transplantation.
Having volunteered at various events to help raise awareness about the need for organ, eye and tissue donations, Hague was invited to the April 11 Delaware City Council meeting. In honor of April being Donate Life Month, Delaware Mayor Carolyn Riggle presented Hague and Jenny Hudak, a community outreach coordinator at Lifeline of Ohio, with a proclamation.
During the meeting, Hudak thanked city residents for registering to be organ donors, highlighting the fact Delaware County has the largest donor registration rate (72%) in the state.
After telling council members about his transplant journey, Hague said, “For those who have signed up to be an organ and tissue donor, I thank you. For those who have yet to register to be one, you can truly make a difference by saving the lives of up to eight people and enhancing the lives of over 50 people.”
According to Hudak, over 3,000 people in Ohio are currently on the waitlist for a transplant. She said Ohioans can register to become a donor when renewing their driver’s license or online at www.lifelineofohio.org.
“You can change your status anytime you like,” she said. “Most importantly, talk to your family. Let them know your decision.”
According to a Lifeline of Ohio facts sheet, approximately 20 people die each day in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant, and once every 48 hours, an Ohioan dies waiting.
In central and southeastern Ohio, 177 organ donors gave the gift of life in 2021, saving 418 lives. Also, 665 tissue donors healed thousands, while 356 cornea donors gave the gift of sight.
In the U.S. last year, 41,354 organ transplants were performed along with more than 1.75 million tissue transplants.
Joshua Keeran is the managing editor of The Delaware Gazette. He can be reached at 740-413-0900.