Allegan County News & Union Enterprise

Plainwell man urges others to sign up as organ donors

Dominick Anastasi is back to playing catch and coaching his sons in basketball, baseball and football. He’s grateful for the experience, considering about two years ago, he was too weak to even throw a baseball.
Initially diagnosed with pancreatitis, the 41-year-old Plainwell resident underwent several treatments, including having his gall bladder removed, but nothing seemed to fully solve his health issues.
“It got to the point where I was so sick, I was in the hospital more than I was at work,” he said.
Anastasi was eventually told his surgeries and other complications had caused blood clots that severely damaged his liver. The organ wasn’t getting the blood it needed and he needed a liver transplant.
As it turned out, it was not that simple.
Because of his other underlying conditions, his care team told him he needed not one new organ, but five: a multi-visceral transplant that included his liver, pancreas and stomach along with his large and small intestine.
It’s an extremely rare and complicated operation, with only about 200 taking place in the world each year. He was referred to the Indiana University Hospital for the procedure.
“I was stunned,” Anastasi said. “It was the first time I had heard of a multi-visceral transplant. I had no idea what it was. I didn’t even know it was possible.”
Fortunately for him, it was.
Anastasi was placed on the organ waiting list in July of 2020 and received the gifted organs—all from a single donor—a month later. He woke up grateful to be alive, but saddened for a family he had never met.
“It hit me pretty hard. It hit me the day after,” he said. “I was in tears. They had to call the chaplain. Here I am, excited at having a second chance at life, but knowing at the same time that there was a family out there mourning the loss of their loved one.”
Anastasi has since corresponded with the donor family and shared pictures and said he hopes to meet them in person one day. He has also continued to gain strength and spend more time with Crystal, his wife of 19 years, and their four boys: Dominick, Jr, Nikolas, Riley and Anthony.
“I’m starting to get some of my strength back,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to go out and play catch with my kids again. I was so desperately thin and fragile I couldn’t do these things before the transplant.”
Established in 2003 by Donate Life America, April is National Donate Life Month. This year, the official theme is “Bee A Donor,” inspired by the vital role that bees play in sustaining life.
Noteworthy National Donate Life Month dates include:
• April 6—Donate Life Living Donor Day
• April 16-22—Donate Life Spirit Week
• April 22—Blue and Green Day, when people wear or decorate in blue and green to promote donation
• April 24-30—National Pediatric Transplant Week
Organ and tissue donation has been trending up in the U.S. for more than a decade. In 2021, more than 40,000 transplants were performed in the U.S. for the first time.
In Michigan, 1,089 organs were transplanted from 429 donors, which represents about a 14 percent increase in donors over the previous year. Also, 1,464 people donated tissue and more than 250,000 names were added to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.
Even so, more needs to be done to raise awareness about the issue and to encourage more people to add their names to the Donor Registry.
There are more than 100,000 people waiting for a life-saving organ in the U.S., including about 2,500 in Michigan. On average, someone is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes in our country, and as many as 20 people die each day waiting for a new organ.
In Michigan, although about 90 percent of the population support organ and tissue donation, only 58 percent of adults are signed up as donors.
Anastasi said he’ll be forever grateful for his donor and he now looks at life with new appreciation. He advises everyone to do the same.
“Try to find the humor in things,” he said. “There’s humor in everything. Live your life. Don’t hesitate. It’s so easy to get angry or depressed. I just try to find the fun side of things. Just live every day like it’s your last.”
For more information about organ donation or to sign up on the Donor Registry, visit the Gift of Life Michigan website at or call 866.500.5801.

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