Transplant donor's family meets Eagle River recipient - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Transplant donor's family meets Eagle River recipient


SHIOCTON, WI (WKOW) – On a crisp October day, a mother's deep brown eyes know what the heart wants.

They yearn for her son, now beating in the chest of a white-haired man.

Despite tragedy, she knows an Eagle River man will carry her baby boy, her heart of gold.

“It's been an absolute miracle,” Jerry Olk says about how Carmen Polanco's unselfish deed, saved his life.

“It will be beautiful, we'll do this on his birthday,” Carmen Polanco is celebrating through a bittersweet smile. She's been planning the Sunday service and trip to see 18-year-old Juan 'Gordo' Polanco's grave for months.

“He's always gonna be my baby, I will see him again,” she says, her eyes welling with tears. 'Gordo' was killed in a crash in Schiocton, Wisconsin on New Year's Eve.

After a moving Catholic service, then a family-style meal, comes a trip to see 'Gordo' at the cemetery.

Jerry has hoped for this moment ever since the heart transplant. He's carrying a borrowed stethoscope, keeping this surprise under wraps from Carmen.

He wants this mother to hear the miracle of her son beating in his chest.

But in this story, this isn't the only miracle performed. A blue and white guardian angel performed another.

Death's door was knocking loudly during a violent snow storm, last January. It was then that Jerry's heart was pumping at only 25 percent.

Out of the blue, came the call he prayed would come.

UW Health had found the match, but the drive through the weather proved nearly impossible. Within 15 minutes of finding the hospital, Jerry's GPS and phone went dead.

“Do the right thing, do it right and do it once” is a mantra Madison police officer Erik Dalma lives by. Fate intervened, that snowy morning. Off to the side of the road, Officer Dalma was checking reports, when he unknowingly helped make Jerry's heart transplant happen.

“You said follow me, you said follow me,” Jerry says grinning.

When minutes mattered, Officer Dalma guided Jerry the last 15 minutes of the trip to UW Health.

“I don't fee like I'm doing anything out of the ordinary, but I'm realizing whatever I do is transcendent,” Officer Dalma said.

Despite a two and half hour drive from home for the heart reunion, he says he wouldn't miss it for the world.

“My chief says we are guardian angels and I believe we are the guardians of the public.”


The sun is shining, beaming onto the tops of brightly colored balloons,as dozens of friends and family surround Gordo's grave.

Jerry is pulling out the stethoscope, as Carmen's face lights up, overwhelmed.

“Would you like to?” Jerry asks Carmen as she slowly approaches, shaking and nervous.

“Push hard,” Jerry insists as tears cascade down the mother's face.

“I can hear my baby!” Carmen cries out in sheer joy as she holds Jerry.

Jerry knows how blessed he is. He says having Gordo's loved ones hear the heart beat was something instinct told him he had to do.

“Gordo got to say hello to everybody, that's what's nice. He says hello to me everyday, but he says hello to everybody, his family and his friends.”

And Gordo tells Jerry something else.

“He says to me, 'Jerry you keep her going for me,' and I'm going too.”

If you'd like to learn more about organ donation, CLICK HERE.

Powered by Frankly