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Organ donors' gifts of life extend to second generation

Exactly five and a half years ago Saturday, Debra Geddes was sitting in the waiting room of a hospital in Pittsburgh, hoping her father, Ron, would survive his double lung transplant surgery.

Thinking about that day still brings tears to her eyes.

But because of her father's transplant, Debra experienced one of the biggest joys of her life Saturday, in Queen of Martyrs Church -- with her father by her side.

Debra exchanged wedding vows with Dale Baldwin, whose mother, Bonnie LoCicero, also survived an organ transplant.

LoCicero's liver was replaced six and a half years ago with a donor's in Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

Father of the bride, Ron Geddes, 58, and mother of the groom, Bonnie LoCicero, 64, met and have become friends through the Transplant Team, a training and exercise program that brings together transplant survivors to promote fitness as well as organ donation awareness.

LoCicero has been named "Cupid" among the family for setting up Debra and Dale.

"My son was 34, and I said 'Come on now, we need to get him married,' " said LoCicero, laughing. "We were getting together with the Geddeses, and I knew their daughter was single too, so I told them to bring her."

The rest, as they say, is history.

"At the rehearsal, Debra put it the best," LoCicero said. "She said, 'If it wasn't for the donors, we wouldn't be here today.' "

While LoCicero has been in contact with her donor's family, Ron Geddes has yet to hear from the family whose loss gave him a second chance at life.

"I've tried to contact my donor's family, but I haven't heard from them," Geddes said. "I just want them to know that these are the results of their daughter. Someone else's loss can give someone else life. I am eternally grateful. I have been given the opportunity to see my kids grow up, see my grandkids, and walk my daughter down the aisle."

"They say 50 people can benefit from one donor," added Debra's mother, Kathy Geddes. "The [recipients] are leading productive lives too."

Geddes is also a major advocate of Upstate New York Transplant Services' three-year campaign to double the already 150,000 registered organ, eye and tissue donors in the region.

President and CEO Mark J. Simon sees Debra and Dale Baldwin as an example of the strong connection shared by those in the organ donation community.

"The couple attests to the fact that the network of those who experience a lifesaving gift is a very close one," said Simon. "I would say that the only thing as strong as their affinity to one another is how well they are able to spread this message to others. Whether it be organ, eye, tissue and now blood donation, Western New York knows the importance of the gift of life."

That gift means more to the Baldwins than any wedding gift they received Saturday. Organ donors not only gave their parents a second chance but also brought them together.

"The fact that Debra and Dale are getting married, well I don't know if it is coincidence or something else, but it's because of the transplant that they are married," said Ron .

e-mail: lmariacher@buffnews.com

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