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MailTribune.com
  • Paying dad's debt forward

    Daughter's senior project promotes organ donations like ones that saved her father
  • CENTRAL POINT — Diagnosed with kidney disease in 2000, Andy Allensworth had only one wish: to live long enough to watch his youngest daughter graduate from high school.
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  • CENTRAL POINT — Diagnosed with kidney disease in 2000, Andy Allensworth had only one wish: to live long enough to watch his youngest daughter graduate from high school.
    After years of dialysis and two transplant operations, a now mostly healthy Allensworth readily admits he won't be able to hold back tears when daughter Shelby, now a senior at Crater High School, dons a cap and gown this spring.
    He might also get a little misty-eyed Friday when his daughter puts on an event encouraging organ donor registration and shares her family's experience.
    Shelby hardly remembers her dad's brush with death during her preschool years. But her father's ongoing battle with kidney disease has been a constant reminder for her to "never take life for granted."
    "Without getting the two transplants, I wouldn't have had him in my life all these years," she says. "I would have grown up without my dad.
    "Doing my senior project on organ donation was something really important to me, and I'm just hoping to raise awareness and get as many people registered as I can."
    The enthusiastic 17-year-old also hopes to spread awareness about becoming a living donor while she registers Crater students to be organ donors during school hours on Friday. She also plans a second event for the public and will set up a Facebook page to advertise it.
    Andy Allensworth received a kidney from his brother Jimmy in 2002 that lasted seven years before kidney disease took over again. Andy's wife, Susan Ross, provided his third lease on life with the kidney he relies on today.
    Shelby says her goal is to increase awareness about organizations such as Donate Life Northwest, a co-sponsor of Friday's event, to promote organ donation before and after death.
    "Basically, the more people that are registered, the more lives that can be saved," Shelby says.
    "I always think about how my dad might have been wait-listed and passed away already. I was only 5 when he was first diagnosed. He would have never seen me graduate or seen me grow up."
    Andy, a former Rogue River resident who now lives in Washington, says he hopes his daughter's project can help patients in need of organs continue to make memories as he has been able to do.
    Like giving his daughter her first diamond ring.
    "It's a tradition for our family that on a girl's 16th birthday I give them a diamond ring so that they can say they got their first diamond ring from their dad," Andy says.
    "When I was first diagnosed and I thought I was probably going to die, I wrote Shelby a letter and put it in an envelope. It said, 'If you're reading this letter, you'll know something happened to me that made it where I couldn't be with you.' My idea was that her sisters would pick out the ring and give her the letter. I didn't want to break tradition."
    Allensworth is in good health, but he knows that his functioning kidney could last him decades or mere weeks.
    "I'm just thankful for the time I've had and I'm so proud of Shelby," he says.
    "Thinking about death is something nobody really wants to do, but everybody in dialysis is facing death and that's a very real, everyday reality," he says. "You're just waiting in hopes someone will donate."
    Shelby is excited to graduate with her dad in the audience. She hopes more children will grow up with family members who otherwise would have been lost.
    "It's really important for people to register as organ donors," she says. "Honestly, if everyone was automatically an organ donor when they died, there would be no such thing as a waiting list and no one would die because they needed an organ.
    "If you think about it, you never know who it's going to be who will need help. It could be someone's sister or best friend or an aunt or an uncle. Or it could be their dad."
    For more information, email scallensworth@gmail.com, call 541-941-9279 or visit www.donatelifenw.org.
    Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.
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