Air Force vet Andrew Koehle's organ donations saved 5 lives

Eye on Veterans
March 22, 2019 - 12:23 pm
Blad Air Base Andrew Koehle sits atop a derelict Russian MiG fighter

Photo courtesy Koehle family

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Andrew "Andy" Koehle joined the Air Force in 2002 out of a sense of duty, and a desire to help others. He did that while traveling the world, including a deployment to Iraq but it didn't stop there. Even after he tragically passed away on January 30, 2017, Andy continued to help others as an organ donor. 

His father Bill Koehle, himself a retired Lt. Col. in the Marine Corps, says it was no surprise to him that Andrew joined the military. While Andy wasn't sure what he'd do after high school Bill says it was in his son's blood. 

Air Force veteran Andrew Koehle seen here with his cousins donated his organs after passing away at 36
Photo courtesy Koehle family

"He had a strong sense of duty and responsibility," Bill says. "It's in the family. He was the 4th generation to serve his country in the military and I think he wanted to carry on that tradition." 

Similarly, Andy's parents were not surprised when he told them of his desire to be an organ donor. It was just who he was, and the kind of thing he usually wanted to do. So when they suddenly found themselves grieving Andy's death following a fentanyl overdose at 36, they hoped that his choice might help others.

Through the organization Donate Life PA, that hope was realized. Big time. 

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A 35-year-old man with cystic fibrosis received Andy’s lungs, and a 38-year-old husband and father of three children under five, who was also grieving the recent loss of his own 10-year-old child in a tragic accident, was saved by Andy’s heart. And that's just the beginning.

You can call it a coincidence, fate, or divine intervention. You can call it whatever you'd like but the following is a fact: Andy's organs also helped three of his fellow veterans.

Andrew Koehle served in the Air Force and donated his organs saving five lives in the process
Photo courtesy Koehle family

A 59-year-old Navy veteran who works as a cross-country truck driver received Andy’s liver. A 71-year-old Air Force veteran who received Andy’s kidney now spends his time volunteering and with his four children and eight grandchildren. A 71-year-old Army veteran who received Andy’s other kidney had been on dialysis for three years. 

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"Isn't that amazing?" Pat Koehle, Andy's mom says of the remarkable outcome. "When I noticed that, I was like 'oh my gosh, these people also served!' It was very... it made me proud that he could do that for someone else."

While it's something they say many people don't think about beyond when they check off organ donor on their driver's license, Pat and Bill both want Andy to serve as an example of the good that comes from being a donor. In fact, they hope that telling his story can help save other lives.

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"There are so many people in the world who are waiting for organs for whatever disease or health problem they are currently suffering with and there are not enough organs," Pat says. "I think that as a result of any kind of tragic death if there's anything that can come out of it, to donate organs that are usable by someone else would help make some sense, not a lot, but some."

You can learn more about organ donation at OrganDonor.gov

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