OCALA (AP) — Dale Jensen waited on the organ transplant list for two years for a kidney before receiving one at the end of August.
But now, the 58-year-old says, he'd give it back for his daughter, whose death saved his life.
“It's a miracle,” he said. “I'm a living miracle.”
It started with a phone call from Romeo Elementary School on Aug. 23. Jensen's daughter, Andrea Miller, hadn't come to pick up her son Josiah.
It was unusual, because Miller loved being a mom, Jensen said.
Jensen went to get the child. Once there, school officials told him there had been an accident on County Road 328 near Miller's house.
“I thought I'd just come home but I headed down 328 to see if I could see anything,” he said.
The road was blocked off. A semi-truck, its front smashed in, lay in a ditch.
“I immediately panicked,” Jensen said. “It was a mess.”
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the crash happened about 2:30 p.m. Miller was driving west in her 2007 Mitsubishi in heavy rain as the tractor-trailer headed in the opposite direction.
Miller apparently drove through standing water, lost control and over-corrected.
Officials said the truck driver tried to avoid Miller but the left front of the tractor-trailer collided into the left front end of the Mitsubishi.
Doctors at Shands at the University of Florida initially said things looked promising for Miller, even though she had broken both arms and legs.
“They really gave us hope,” Jensen said.
Fifteen minutes later, the situation was more dire. Doctors advised Jensen and his son, Kent, to call family.
For another two days, family members said goodbye.
“We were just hanging on,” Jensen said. “You could look at her and tell she wasn't there. She was already gone.”
After one of his dialysis sessions, his sons broke the news. They decided Miller, as a naturally giving person, would want to donate her organs.
One of her kidneys would go to her ailing father, who had lived on four-times-daily dialysis treatments.
“There's just not words in the vocabulary to express how you feel,” he said.
Andrea Miller died at 11:17 p.m. Aug. 26 at Shands. At 7 a.m. Aug. 27, Jensen was at Florida Hospital in Orlando undergoing his kidney transplant.
Jensen said he's lost weight — but not faith.
“If it wasn't for my faith, I'd never make it,” he said. “I may have made it physically but never mentally.”
Members at the Church at the Springs volunteer to drive him to Orlando for his post-transplant clinicals.
“With this kidney I'll be able to do everything I used to be able to do,”' he said. “I want to go back to work, want to be able to walk on the beach for miles and play with my grandkids at the park without having to sit down the whole time. I just want my life back, although it'll never be the same.”
His views on organ donation have changed, Jensen said.
“It's important and until you're in this position, you don't understand how important it is,” he said.
At Miller's funeral two weeks ago, Jensen was amazed at the number of people who had been touched by her life. It helped ease the pain of losing his daughter.
“It's going to be hard for a long time,” he said. “But we go on”