By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, email@example.com
The little boy walked up to the man, wrapped his arms around him as far as they would go, and said, “You’ve got my mom’s kidney, so we’re family now.”
Darry Hood has a hard time telling that story without choking back tears. Here he is, a 78-year-old retired teacher, musician and magician, feeling alive again thanks to the gift of a stranger.
But they are strangers no longer. Like 10-year-old Owen Dayhoff said, they’re family.
Owen’s mom, Traci Dayhoff, donated a kidney to Hood in April after she read about him in a Greenfield newspaper article several months ago. At the time, Hood was on the transplant list, but multiple people who had stepped up to try to donate were not good matches.
Dayhoff, a 39-year-old wife, mother of four and nurse at Riley Hospital for Children, didn’t know Hood but felt called to go through the rigorous screening process to see if she could help him.
“I just felt I was supposed to try,” she said. “You could tell he had such a good attitude, and he had lived this life that made so many people want to help him but couldn’t for whatever reason.”
She told her husband, “If this is God’s will for me to do this, then this testing is all going to go through and I’ll be cleared to donate.”
Hood taught for 42 years at Eastern Hancock High School, retiring in 2009, and played in a band for over four decades, specializing in 1950s and ‘60s rock and roll. He still writes and records music in his home studio.
He and his wife, Sue, downsized from their home in Knightstown to a condo in Greenfield, where they try to walk a mile every day to stay fit.
His kidney problems started about eight years ago and progressed to the point where doctors said he needed a transplant. Up until that point, Hood noticed he was a lot more fatigued and had a lot of itching, caused by toxins in his body.
“I feel great. I’ve got a new lease on life, I lost 20 pounds, got my appetite back and sleep well at night. I had no pain when I came home from the hospital.”
His wife has been his rock throughout the ordeal, he said, while the couple finished up their nightly walk this past weekend.
Dayhoff, who is back to work at Riley, didn’t know Hood before the transplant but specified that her kidney go to him. She remained anonymous until after the procedure.
The surgery, which took place at another Indianapolis hospital, went smoothly for both.
“I feel 100 percent now,” she said. “The process isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s 100 percent worth it. The fact is that so many people need a kidney and most of us are walking around with an extra.”
After she and three of her kids met Hood last week, she said, “I feel like I’ve known him my whole life already. He’s just one of those people.”
The Hoods, who have two adult children and five grandchildren, are already adding events to their calendar. They plan to watch the Dayhoff kids play baseball and other sports this summer.
Seeing how everything has played out reaffirms the importance of organ donation in Hood’s mind, of course. He and his wife are registered donors on their driver’s licenses. But being a living donor to a complete stranger blows his mind, he said.
“It just takes my breath away. A gift that can’t be repaid.”
Like Owen said, they’re family now.
To find out more about organ donation, visit indianadonornetwork.org