Lung recipient celebrates donor's life with 19-day journey to boost organ donation
(WJBK) - On June 19, 2011, things would change forever when 24-year-old Salvatore Talluto was riding a party bus near I-94 at Van Dyke.
He put his head out the bus's roof while they passed a bridge, and hit his head. His injuries were too severe and he did not survive.
The Talluto family was struck with a gaping loss on their lives but with one very significant ray of hope. His family decided to donate his organs, their silver lining.
Meanwhile, a perfect stranger in Port Huron, Kyle Bailey, was battling cystic fibrosis and desperately waiting for lungs. Nine months on oxygen, hope was running out with every passing breath and every passing moment.
Then he got the news. He was getting a new set of lungs. Salvatore's lungs.
"I immediately noticed that my fingernails were pink instead of blue right after surgery. So, we know it had taken well, the surgery. But it didn't hit me until 48 hours that someone had to actually pass, and lost their life, so I could have mine," Kyle says.
Kyle would soon find that out of the tragedy on I-94, he had gotten a fighting chance. Salvatore, in part would live on. Kyle and Salvatore's family share a lot now.
"It was confirmed about four months after that Salvatore Talluto was my organ donor. So we met with the family and I have a beautiful relationship with a family that I would not have known if I didn't have this," he says.
Bailey, now 33 years old, knows how critical these gifts are. So he's taking his message from Ann Arbor to Orlando, Florida later this month on a 19-day bike ride. Every mile clocked, he hopes to boost organ donation in America, where 115,000 people are waiting for a gift like the one he received.
"It's an open invite. You can come with me, you can join me for dinner anywhere I'm at, breakfast."
He said goal is to get half a million new organ donors registered in the United States.
"He's taking that gift that he received and he's putting it to good use and he's sharing his story and he's explaining how his life was saved through donors and their generous gifts," said Tim Makinen with the Gift of Life.
So, as family remembers how Salvatore lived his life, they celebrate his every breath and those taken by Kyle. The bike ride this month celebrates both men and the hope that others can be given this gift, too.
"It's going to be an experience. An experience that not too many get to do," Kyle said.
And he's taking Sal along for the ride.