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The most important gift

The Donate Life Flag is being flown at Tri-County Health Care during the month of April to honor local organ and tissue donors, their families and recipients.

A flag ceremony honor organ donors was Friday morning at Tri-County Health Care.
A flag ceremony honor organ donors was Friday morning at Tri-County Health Care.

The Donate Life Flag is being flown at Tri-County Health Care during the month of April to honor local organ and tissue donors, their families and recipients.

The display is part of a national initiative, Flags Across America, designed to honor and celebrate the hundreds of thousands of donors and recipients whose lives have been affected by organ, eye and tissue donation.

To honor local donor families and recipients, a flag-raising ceremony was held on Friday, April 8 at Tri-County Health Care. Robby Grendahl, a heart transplant recipient, and his wife Lori, were special guests at the ceremony.

Grendahl had a heart transplant when he was a teenager.

It was the summer of 1986 and Grendahl was having a fairly normal summer for a 15-year-old, he said. Then he suddenly fell ill during an athletic event in August and was told that he needed a new heart. He was immediately put on the national waiting list and a heart was found.

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It's been nearly 30 years and Grendahl said he's thankful for the time he has received.

"That time has afforded many opportunities," he said. "But all the transplant stories don't work out this way because of the great need."

According to the Life Source website, there are more than 123,000 men, women and children in the United States waiting for life‐saving organ transplants and more than 3,700 live in the Upper Midwest. Every 10 minutes another person is added to the list and on average 22 people will die every day because they won't receive a transplant in time. The donation from one person can save and heal up to 60 lives through organ, eye and tissue donation.

The organ donation journey has come full circle for Grendahl a few times, most recently in January when one of his students at Wadena-Deer Creek High School, Sam Kelderman, passed away in a car accident.

"This community lost a son, a student and a friend," he said.

Sam was an organ donor and his parents, Kandi and Darren Kelderman, talked about that decision Friday.

Kandi recalled when her son took his driver's test and was so excited to receive his license. He asked if he could fill out the organ donation box.

"Sure," Kandi said.

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She didn't think much of that until the night Sam was in an accident and was taken to the Emergency Room at Tri-County.

"It turned out the most important thing he ever did was the last thing he did," Kandi said.

She encouraged others to check the box and become an organ donor.

Locally, Tri-County Health Care partners with LifeSource to support families at the end-of-life and offer the opportunity of organ and tissue donation.

"Last year, two tissue donors at Tri-County Health Care provided more than 120 gifts for transplant recipients," said Joel Beiswenger, Tri-County Health Care President and CEO. "Flying the flag honors our local donor families and the many people their loved one's gifts have touched."

Across the nation, thousands of Donate Life flags will be flown and displayed throughout the month of April - National Donate Life Month. To learn more about organ donation go to life-source.org.

Darren and Kandi Kelderman, left, and Lori and Robby Grendahl, right, participated in a flag raising ceremony at Tri-County Health Care honoring organ donors. Both families have ties to organ donation and have seen the positive impact it can have on others.
Darren and Kandi Kelderman, left, and Lori and Robby Grendahl, right, participated in a flag raising ceremony at Tri-County Health Care honoring organ donors. Both families have ties to organ donation and have seen the positive impact it can have on others.

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