Man who struggled on ventilator remembered after becoming organ donor

It's been four months since these two nurses last saw each other. Science and compassion brought them together.
Published: May. 6, 2022 at 10:38 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A man who fell ill made a brave decision to become an organ donor. Four months later, he is still remembered for what he gave.

In December, Cathy Landas’ husband Gary had already been in Omaha’s Methodist Hospital for a month. The 60-year-old wasn’t getting better. COVID-19 took away his ability to breathe on his own.

“[The nurse] reminded me that I was the wife, and I could be the wife and not the nurse,” Cathy Landas said. “That’s a hard thing to do.”

As the Landas family prepared for the final chapter, it turned out the goodbyes would have to wait.

Gary Landas never told his family, but he was an organ donor.

“He was a little on the fence whether he would be comfortable with that,’ Cathy said. “And then we didn’t talk about it. Then one day we were told, he was an organ donor.”

“When I found out I thought that makes sense for him,” Gary’s son Jared Landt said.

“Yes, 100%, that’s what he would want and we wanted to honor that,” Gary’s daughter-in-law Anna Landt said.

However, Gary would need to be on the ventilator for another 24 hours while a match was found.

There was no question Gary Landas was uncomfortable. It was hard to watch someone who was always there for his family, even strangers, suffer.

“That’s when it washed all over at once,” Gary’s daughter Leah Struthers said. “It was a big overwhelming moment trying to figure out what to do.”

Cathy Landas wasn’t sure if she could bear being by her husband’s side for the 24 hours needed to find a match, all while a ventilator kept him alive.

“If he could rest, I could handle it,” she said.

Jessica White, a critical care nurse, volunteered.

“I trusted her and when she told me she could keep him comfortable, I believed her,” Cathy said. “I knew if he could be comfortable, I could get through it too.”

“He would dutifully put himself through that pain for 24 hours if it meant helping someone,” Jared Landt said.

Gary Landas’ last act would live on through others.

“Organ donation is giving the gift of life to people,” Jessica White said. “What better thing can you give? So that sounds exactly like something he would have done.”

His final video was captured in a Hero Walk. Healthcare workers lined the hallway as Gary Landas was wheeled to the operating room.

“It was overwhelming to see that kind of love and support,” Cathy said.

The Landas family isn’t sure of everyone who benefitted from Gary’s gifts that day, from his skin and tissue. One day they say they would like to meet the single parent who received a kidney.

“He wanted one last act of giving.”

Even four months later, the sadness is all over from the death of Gary Landas.

His wife says she recently realized there are groceries in the house that she didn’t buy. She takes comfort that her husband had a giving spirit until the end.

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