All Stories

Denny Johanson – Tissue & Cornea Donor

sandy johanson and familyMemorial Day, May 31, 2004, an absolutely beautiful day that changed the lives of so many individuals in so many different ways.

My husband, Denny, had made plans to go on an afternoon motorcycle ride with two of his friends, John and Craig. They were going to meet about 1 p.m. As I was leaving the house around noon to go to the hospital to set with my seriously ill father Denny kissed me goodbye, said, “I love you and tell daddy I will see him soon.”

At approximately 3 p.m., a 39 year old woman, along with her mother and granddaughter were leaving a cemetery after visiting her brothers grave. She pulled out into the path of Denny, he was unable to stop, was thrown off the motorcycle and was killed instantly. He was taken to Frankfort Regional Medical Center and pronounced dead.

The majority of my early career was Emergency Room and for several years I managed a neuro trauma intensive care unit at a Level 1 trauma center up north. In that role we frequently dealt with organ donation.

At 10 p.m. that evening I received a call regarding donation. Given Denny’s strong belief that “Life is Good” and the fact that he saw life as a gift and lived each day to the fullest I readily said yes.

How appropriate that his left cornea went to a 55 year old woman, married with 2 children. His right cornea was transplanted but I have no further information. How proud we are knowing that these 2 individuals will see, as Denny did, that life is indeed a gift. Denny’s bone donation consisted of 59 grafts that have been used in 17 states and 8 grafts were sent to a medical center in Seoul, Korea. As my friend, Sandy Hickey, from KODA said, he is a world traveler! We find peace knowing so many individuals are now able to enjoy an improved quality of life because of our hero!

Two 2 years after the accident, along with a dear friend, I met with the lady who was instrumental in his death along with her husband. I knew Denny would want her to forgive herself. At the end of our emotional meeting I did ask both of them to consider donation …..the Gift of Life. Without hesitation, they agreed.

Denny taught me, our sons, our grandchildren, other family members, and dear friends that it is the journey of life that should be the priority, not the destination. The generous love he shared with each of us is ours to keep forever, carefully in our hearts.
-Story by Sandy Johanson, Denny’s wife, pictured here holding his photo with family at KODA’s Donor Family Ceremony.  Sandy serves on the Board of Directors for KODA.