Illinois Donor Diaries – Chapter 7

Today, we bring you a very special Father’s Day entry from the Illinois Donor Diaries. Retired Chicago police officer and lung transplant recipient Jack Hurley (pictured with family below) will celebrate the two-year anniversary of his transplant on June 21. Enjoy the story below and be sure to check out Jack’s documentary on his transplant experience on where there are two segments that feature Jack before and after his transplant.

Happy Father’s Day to all, have a great weekend.

June 15, 2007

My name is Jack Hurley. I am 55 years of age, born, raised, and will be buried on the south side of Chicago. I grew up two blocks away from where I live now. I have been married to Eileen for 25 years. Eileen and I have three children: Jackie, age 23; Melissa, age 19; and John Jr., age 14. I was a Chicago police officer for 34 years, but I was forced to retire as a result of my illness, a decision I thoroughly agreed with.

My shortness of breath led to a diagnosis of Intersitial Pulmonary Fibrosis in January of 2004. December of 2004 tests for transplant revealed a 95% blockage of the “Widow Maker.” On February 11, 2005, I was placed on United Network for Organ Sharing’s (UNOS) waiting list.

June 21, 2005…I was at the lake where my family has a little place. I was on 15 liters of O2 and barely able to breathe. I was showing Eileen how to take care of our two small boats. This had been my job, and there was no reason to show Eileen or the kids how to do it because I would always be there. But as of that day, even I was forced to admit to myself, and myself only, that I was slowly, but most certainly, running out of time. It struck me after a short while that what I was doing was saying goodbye, to my little trailer, to my beloved old boats. I was thinking that soon I would be saying goodbye to my loved ones.

Driving home from the lake, I was breathing really hard and saying very little. I was praying a little, and I was really, really trying to remain calm. There is a time to have your game face on and a time to seek assistance, but there is never a time for surrender or caving in. Never.

When I got home, I received a call from Jennifer Wood, Lung Transplant Coordinator for Loyola Hospital. Jennifer said that they had a lung, and that she wanted me in the hospital as soon as I could, and to be careful. Eileen came into view and I was a kid again. I stood up and said “Time to go, kid.” We called Melissa and John into the room, and they knew what was up. Melissa’s eyes looked like twin Lake Michigans- very green and very wet. I kissed them and hugged them, and then I got the heck out of there.

At the hospital, I talked deeply to Eileen- keeping it upbeat. But after some time I had to tell her what she meant to me. If you see me, then you see Eileen. If you see Eileen, then you see me. She is my pal and I adore her. It was really love at first sight, and more than twenty years later, that love remained. I spoke that way right in front of the doctors and nurses. There would be no other chance, perhaps. The time was now, and then I was quiet. I wondered who died to save me. What made them be so wonderful, why was I so lucky, so blessed? Then, as I contemplated those things in that quiet place, all hell broke loose. I heard someone call out “It’s a go!” and off I went. My last words to Eileen were, “I was never boring, was I?”

As I was wheeled into the operating room, I was surrounded by smiling faces. I said, “Did everyone bring their A game tonight?” Everyone responded in the affirmative and I was knocked out.

I came to about ten or twelve hours later. I had to think hard, “Did they do it? Was the lung bad? Or did something else happen?” A nurse appeared. She said, “You did great Mr. Hurley! You’re all set!” I was overwhelmed. This was going to work!

There is no telling how many people were saved, or their lives improved by this brave and wonderful donor. She has a space in my heart, and a place in my prayers. A wife got her husband back, three really wonderful kids got Dad back, and friends got their friend back. I’m alive thanks to the transplant, my donor, my medics, and my family. I received my gift of hope, and for that, I am forever thankful.

I will spend Father’s Day with Eileen, Jackie, Melissa, and John. We will have a great time. The kids will start to tell Dad and Mom stories, always the same stories, always just as funny. It will be a very good day. They are all good days.

-Jack Hurley
Mt. Greenwood, Ill.


One Response to Illinois Donor Diaries – Chapter 7

  1. BreathinSteven says:

    I’ve met Jack Hurley and spent time with him on a number of occasions. He’s an awesome guy… He attends our lung transplant support group now and then. I saw him sucking O2 before transplant and walking tall after his transplant.

    I know there were a few bumps in his road post transplant – yet he still has an incredibly positive influence on the people waiting around him, and the people who have been through it. Regardless of any troubles he may have had, he leaves not doubt that he would do it all again in a heartbeat.

    You know I’m all about leaping tall buildings – Jack’s beautiful daughter did the Hustle up the Hancock for the American Lung Association last year in his honor – she wore a very funny shirt that said, “My dad had a hair transplant and a lung transplant, guess which one worked?” with a picture of smiling Jack with his shiny head on her shoulder…

    Jack makes it so very clear how much he appreciates the gift he has been given. You just have to see this big, burly, former Chicago Police Detective’s eyes welling, and lips quivering a bit, when he speaks of the generous person who saved his life. I think his donor would be proud of the life she’s saved…

    It’s an amazing thing to be able to give someone their life back – to give them back to their spouse and their children. It’s an amazing thing to get your life back too. Jack makes it so obvious that he appreciates the gift he’s been given. I do too. They really are all good days, aren’t they Jack?



    Steve Ferkau
    Chicago, IL

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