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Donor Makes Possible Five Organ Transplants

September 12, 1990

DETROIT (AP) _ As a young boy, Valdies Doss ran into a burning building to save a neighbor child. At his death, the 29-year-old man donated organs for transplants that saved five more lives.

″He loved people, he helped people all the time,″ his mother, Marva Odister, said Wednesday.

Her son suffered fatal head injuries in a traffic accident Friday. Doctors approached her about the organ donations.

Surgical teams from four states flew to Detroit Receiving Hospital late Saturday and worked until 5 a.m. Sunday to remove Doss’ heart, lungs, pancreas, kidneys and liver, hospital spokeswoman Diane Cuper said.

They also saved his eyes, skin and many bones and veins, Cuper said.

It was the first time such a procedure had been performed in Michigan and one of only a few times nationally, doctors said.

At stake was the gift of life, said Dr. Emanuel Reinitz, chief of transplantation at Detroit Medical Center who headed the team.

A patient awaiting a heart transplant has an 80 percent chance of survival if a donor of the proper organ size and blood type is found, Reinitz said.

At any time, 1,200 to 1,500 people nationally are awaiting heart transplants and 17,000 await kidney transplants, the doctor added.

″These are precious, precious things. That’s why there’s all these communications going back and forth and these teams flying back and forth when this happens,″ he said.

Doss’ heart was given to a 40-year-old St. Louis man who had been waiting two years for a transplant. His liver went to a 40-year-old Richmond, Va., man, and a 38-year-old Minnesota man has Doss’ left lung.

Both of his kidneys went to Michigan women, Cuper said.

″The number of patients that have benefited from this one donation is what’s so exciting,″ said Gerda Lipcaman, executive director of the Organ Procurement Agency of Michigan. ″The heart recipient, the liver recipient, the lung recipient - they have no recourse. They either get a transplant or they die.″

Doss was struck by a van Friday night as he left his job as a cook at the Van Dyke Park Hotel in suburban Warren.

Doss hadn’t married, his mother said. ″He never had any kids. This way, he’s helping somebody,″ she said.

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