Emotional impact of killer’s organ donation

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — It was late 2006, and a fall had damaged Catherine Kooyers’ spinal cord.

“I was told if I did not have surgery immediately, I would potentially be quadriplegic,” said the Wyoming resident.

Donated bone saved Kooyers from that fate. It came from an Alabama police officer who died from a heart attack.

The donation set Kooyers’ life on a new course. She volunteers with a number of groups, including the Michigan Patriot Guard, which honors fallen military and police officers.

“We don’t know how much time we have, and I cherish every day, probably more than the average person,” she said. “But I want to make sure whatever I do honors what (the officer) did for me and the work that he did.”

But will the eight people who could potentially benefit from Eric Knysz’ donated organs feel the same way?

The family of Knysz, who was convicted in the murder of Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield, said Knysz’ organs were to be donated after his suicide earlier this week.

“I do hope they let these people know in advance what they’re getting, so that they can mentally prepare for it,” Kooyers said.

But that’s unlikely.

Gift of Life Michigan, the organization that helps promote and educate the public on organ donations, says the transplantation process is strictly confidential. Other that sharing important medical information, the recipient isn’t told where the organs come from.

The donor’s family isn’t told where their loved one’s organs are going. Gift of Life can eventually bring donor families and recipients together, but only if both sides agree.

Kooyers said she’s not sure how she would react if she learned she was the recipient of organs or parts from someone like Knysz.

She said recipients such as herself go through physical and mental challenges. After all, someone had to die to improve her quality of life.

“I know that what got me through was knowing where I came from,” Kooyers said. “And I often wondered how would I feel if it had come from something different.”

Like a young man convicted of taking a police officer’s life.

“I would like to stay positive and hope that we can focus, from this point forward, on looking at the lives that will be positively impacted in a way that honors the sacrifice that Trooper Butterfield made,” Kooyers said.

There are more than 3,300 people currently awaiting transplants in Michigan.

Anyone interested in learning more about organ donations can go to the website of Gift of Life Michigan.

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