SIDNEY — A Sidney teenager will honor his late father when he throws out the first pitch of the Tuesday, Aug. 16, Dayton Dragons baseball game.
Kevin Fultz, 17, son of Pam Fultz, of Sidney, and the late Michael Keith Fultz, will be part of Life Connection of Ohio’s donor awareness night at the baseball game.
“I was surprised. It’s a unique opportunity to honor dad’s memory and help bring awareness to organ donation,” said Kevin, who is entering his senior year at Sidney High School, on being asked to throw out the baseball.
“I think my dad would be proud of me and think it’s cool,” said Kevin of throwing out the baseball.
Keith passed away on April 15 and his family decided to give the gift of life to others when they donated his organs.
“Keith was doing what he loved,” said Pam. “He was riding his bike when he was struck by a motorist. He died from injuries sustained in that accident.”
It was a family decision, said Pam, to donate Keith’s organs and tissues through Life Connection of Ohio.
“We had talked about being organ donors,” said Pam. “You need to make sure your family knows what your wishes our. We had both indicated on our driver’s licenses that we wanted to be organ donors.”
As Pam and Kevin waited at the hospital, Keith’s daughter, Amanda Stalnaker, of St. Leonard, Maryland, was able to fly in and see her dad one last time before he passed away.
“My mom and sister and I were all in agreement that we wanted to do that – though he had already elected to do so on his driver’s license. I’m very happy that because of my dad’s organ donation he has saved several lives,” said Kevin.
“We were discussing if we wanted to do that (organ donation),” said Pam. “We knew in our hearts it was the right thing to do.”
The family received a call from Life Connection of Ohio asking them if they wanted to donate Keith’s organs.
“At the hospital, we had to answer a lot of health questions,” said Pam. “We received a handmade afghan as a thank you for the donation.”
A retired police officer, Keith received a final sendoff from police officers from the Miami Valley has he was taken into surgery for the donation.
“As they were taking him into surgery for him to donate his organs, the Miami Valley Police Department gave him a final salute,” said Pam. “Life Connection of Ohio shared the photo with me. I’d love to meet the officers that did that and thank them. It was an amazing gesture.”
The decision on who receives an organ, said Pam, is based on need.
“No one is buying their way to the top of the list,” she said. “Someone is not being denied care if they are an organ donor.”
The Fultz family received information from Life Connection so they could write a letter to the people who received Keith’s organs.
“We could include his first name, age and what he liked,” said Pam. “I’ve sent a couple of letters. A woman in her 60s received his kidney. A man in this 60s received his liver.”
She said it could be up to a year before they learn who received tissue donations and his corneas.
“The recipient of his kidney wrote me back,” said Pam. “Jan loves animals just like us. She loved to go cruising and couldn’t do due to her health.”
Pam said receiving the letter has helped her with the grieving process. At some future date she would like to meet the donors who received Keith’s organs. She included in the letters that if they suddenly had a craving for salt, that was because of Keith.
“He really liked salt,” said Pam. “At his funeral, we had salt shakers everywhere at the funeral home. There was also a salt shaker in his hand.
“When he would eat, you would see a layer of white on his food,” she said. “Before he was cremated, they asked if I wanted the salt shaker he was holding back. I told them no, it needed to be cremated with him to go to the afterlife with him. The man has to have his salt!”
Because of what happened to Keith, both of Pam’s parents are now registered organ donors. They have encouraged their friends in their retirement community in Florida to sign up to be donors also.
“In the midst of our tragedy, we were able to help other people live,” said Pam.
Pam is now a volunteer with Life Connection of Ohio and goes to different events to talk about organ donation.
“I went to a health fair with them in Dayton,” said Pam. “I was working with seasoned volunteers. One of the was from Botkins and she helped me. Another volunteer has a son who is a multiple organ recipient.”
One volunteer, Bethany, lost an infant child, said Pam.
“She donated the baby’s body because the organs were too small for donation,” said Pam. “Because of this, research can be done to help other infants. She also started a nonprofit in his memory.”
Pam said she has “good days and bad days” since Keith’s death.
“But life goes on,” she said. “I went back to work. Kevin will go back to school. I’ll hear something on the radio, or a smell a certain scent and there goes the tears.
“I have a good network of friends, Facebook family, my hometown and the town where my parents live supporting us. Someone will ask ‘can we pray for you’ and that helps,” she said.”Father’s Day was very difficult. Our wedding anniversary was hard, we were married for almost 24 years. Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday, so that will be a tough day.”
The couple moved back to Sidney in 2008 after Keith retired from the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department.
“I think Keith would be pleased with our decision,” said Pam. “We were trying to make the best out of a bad situation. Even in his death, he helped so many people. That would bring a smile to his face.
“He was a loving, giving, caring man,” she said. “He loved the outdoors and loved to fish and bike. He loved to take cruises. He loved the sun and being outside. He loved being on the beach or by the pool by a house.”
When they moved back to Sidney, Keith became a “house husband” while Pam worked at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA.
“I’m learning to do a lot now that he’s gone,” she said. “That man could cook. Last Thanksgiving he taught our granddaughter to make lasagna.”
When he passed away, the family asked that donations be made the the Shelby County Rescue Foundation (SCARF).
“He liked volunteering with the animals,” said Pam. “Because of the donations received, he will be listed on the Paw of Fame. It will be neat to have a part of him there.”
Ohio Life Connection will have information about organ donation at the game. The mobile education vehicle will also be there.
For more information about organ donation, visit http://lifeconnectionofohio.org/.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.