The loss of a loved one is an incredible challenge for family and friends. The void of their laughter, teasing and absence at special occasions hits nerves that had never been touched. But for a few they pull themselves together realizing that their loss is not total. They can help others with the gift of transplant.
That gut-wrenching decision became all too real for 23-year-old Zachary Chase Kwasneski‘s family. It was on March 4, 2020, when their bright and talented UT Dallas senior with the “crazy ’70s hair,” who “had the best, sweetest and longest hugs” for family and friends, was accidentally killed.
But his death was not the end of Zachary’s life of kindness and loving of others. He lived on thanks to his “wish of being an organ donor.”
Thanks to Zachary’s family fulfilling Zachary’s “wish,” Southwest Transplant Alliance and experienced clinical transplant teams, Zachary lives on in people he never knew.
According to his aunt Dani Cook Barrows, “Zachary was a one-in-a-million person in life and we wanted him to be a one-in-a-million donor.
“Someone is seeing the world through Zachary’s eyes; someone is loving their spouse or their children through his heart; someone is taking a deep breath with his lungs; and someone is able to live a full life, free of dialysis with his kidneys.”
Perhaps Zachary’s “wish” had resulted from Dani’s and her husband Buddy Barrow‘s friendship with Tim Gallagher, whose life had been saved thanks to a heart transplant in 2014. His transplant also created ripples in his own life making all those around him become aware of the kindness of total strangers.
Dani admitted, “Ours is a heart-wrenching story, but there’s a brighter side to it. I look at my friend Tim Gallagher and know the world is a better place because he’s in it thanks to the incredible gift of his heart transplant.”
In recalling the life-changing gift of a heart after suffering a “widow-maker heart attack,” Tim said, “Something like this shakes up your entire world, breaks apart all the various pieces of your life, mixes them up and rattles then around, and you are left the task to put them back together. Of course your perspective shifts and the important things in life become a lot more clear. You think about the legacy you want to create not just after you’re gone, but the legacy you want to be a part of right now.”
It was volunteer work supporting patients living with chronic illness, and funding research and training, that brought Tim and his wife Terri Gallagher together with the Barrows.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Baylor Scott and White Annette C. and Harold C. Simmons Transplant Institute, Tim and Terri have signed up to chair the “Gift of Life Gala” on Saturday, April 6, 2024, at the Omni Dallas Hotel. Joining them will be Dani and Buddy as co-chairs.
Since Baylor’s first transplant in 1984, “more than 11,000 patient lives have been transformed, making Baylor the highest volume transplant center in Texas.” Today, its services include heart, kidney, liver, lung and uterus transplants.
* Photo provided by Baylor Scott and White Dallas Foundation