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Last week was a tough one. Not just on on my body (stayed awake for 37 hours straight) but because of the tragic story. I’m talking about the helicopter crash near Mason City.

Wednesday night, as I was getting ready to go out to the studio to be live for my story at 10:00 about… um, you know what? I can’t even remember what it was about. (Oops, that’ll happen.) Anyway, as I was getting ready to go out there, we get a call in the newsroom about a Mercy Hospital Medical Helicopter that may have crashed near Mason City. It’s the kind of phone call you get where you think “oh please, let this be a false alarm.” Because how awful?! But, as I found out after my live in the studio, it wasn’t a false alarm. It had happened.

Without really thinking about it, I volunteered to go with the photojournalist on the two hour drive. I say without even thinking about it, because first of all I had just finished a full 8 hour workday, I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, and by the time we got there it was around 1 am. Not a lot happens around 1 am. But we were there.

We pulled up to the crash sight and talked with the trooper parked on the side of the road, standing watch. He confirmed- 3 fatalities. My stomach dropped. A nurse, a paramedic, and the pilot. On their way to get a patient- on their way to save a life.

But it was late. Nothing more was really going to be done that night. Still, my photographer and I made a decision. We were there. We were going to stay and cover the story- share the stories of the people that died, and keep people updated as much as we could.

The next couple of hours consisted of a lot of driving (the crash sight and the hospital were pretty far from each other) and information gathering. We met with some of the hospital staff, which was hard, because they had just lost their loved ones. Then we drove back to the crash sight where we went live for the morning show.

That night (early morning) it got cold. At one point the people back in the studio thought my microphone was cutting out. Nope, just my teeth chattering. After the show, I gave a live phone interview to one of our sister stations who was covering the story through us, and then we waited, and watched the sun come up.

I remember sitting there, trying to plan out our next move, when Randy my photographer groaned: “You can see it. You can see the debris.” It was awful. Especially in the dull light of the rising morning sunlight. Even from a distance.

Once the sun was up we got our video, talked to the Deputy Sheriff who first responded to the scene, and then knocked on some neighbor’s doors. Not many answered. I don’t really blame them. Some knew the victims. Others, well, they saw too much. For those that did answer, I was amazed how thoughtful they were to us, in the wake of a tragedy in their their tight knit community. But I think they just understood- that we weren’t there to exploit the story or sensationalize it. We were there to tell how three loved people, who spent their lives saving and helping others, tragically lost their lives.

After a press conference and some more driving, we were back at the station. After 27 hours straight of work, I was pretty loopy. My emotions were definitely heightened and to say I felt out of it would be an understatement. But I wanted to be sure not too complain about it- because as tragic a story it was, I was grateful for the opportunity to cover it, from beginning to end, and to meet the people I did. Stories like those are never easy, but covering them gives others the opportunity to hear about the people that too soon lost their lives, and maybe, hopefully, makes a few people stop and think about how unpredictable life can be.

On the flip side to how unpredictable life can be, is my story from tonight. A really incredible story, about 10 strangers, and a “pay it forward” situation that literally saved lives.

First of all a little something about kidney donation I learned tonight. It’s a major surgery, complete with risks and substantial recovery. Of course now with the technology they have it’s a lot less invasive, and safer, but still, it’s a big procedure. Second, there are more than 500 people in Iowa alone waiting for a transplant. And even though a donation from a deceased person does work, the best chance for survival and a full life is to get it from a live donor. Well, you can imagine how much that happens. I mean, sure, we hear about the mother, father, sister brother who donates, but even blood related, they are not always compatible. Or a patient will use their family members ofr donations, but years later their body will reject it- their new kidney will fail. Can you imagine the feeling of hopeless? One woman described it- saying she was ready to give up. She had told her mother that she was only going to fight until her daughter graduated. Then she was done. It was too much pain, too much suffering, just too much. But then, a phone call saved her life. It told her about this chain of donations that she was going to be a part of. Let me start from the beginning:

It all started with Tyler Weig. A 30 year old man who stepped up and said” I want to help someone, by donating a kidney.” He didn’t know who he would be giving this gift to, and didn’t care. He just wanted to make a difference in someone’s life. It turned out the life he changed was Lance Beyer’s. Lance’s wife, unable to donate to her husband, was so moved by this act of kindness from a stranger, she decided to pay it forward.  A man named Jay Lindahl was compatible with her, and received her kidney.  Mike Dodge had heard of Jay’s need from his brother, and had planned on helping him, but wasn’t a match. But then he heard about this chain of donors, and he decided to donate to a stranger as well. That stranger ended up being Nick Titus. Nick’s aunt (who had wanted to donate to him for years, but wasn’t compatible) then donated, to Nerissa March, whose husband Peter then donated his kidney to Dawn Inman, the woman I spoke of earlier.

Seeing and hearing those stories, and the emotions as they shared them was incredible. The donors had never met their recipients until today, and now, they will be forever connected. One of the doctors said it best- something like this really restores a person’s faith in humanity. It makes us realize how good people can be- how selfless, how thoughtful. The doctor also said he hopes this will encourage others to help out too, and to donate- whether it’s something as big as a kidney, or bone marrow, or blood. I know it worked on me.

I hope you get a chance to watch the story. It’s on tonight at 10:00 (Friday) on WHO (the show live-streams on our website too) otherwise it will be on our website to read and watch. (CLICK HERE)

Happy Weekend all.