Fallen OKCPD cadet lives on through donated organs

Fallen OKCPD cadet lives on through donated organs

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The motto of many police departments is "to serve and protect."  Few knew that, or lived that motto more than Kelley Chase.  His entire life was dedicated to the service of others. 

First to his country, he spent more than a decade in the Air Force and was a decorated officer.  He served his family and when the time came that he had to leave the Air Force he chose to serve his community by becoming an Oklahoma City Police officer.

Chase died during training, but his family only recently discovered how much of him is still living on and still serving and protecting others.

Chase's widow doesn't remember much about her final hours with her husband.  "I think that day in the hospital is a bit of a haze," Elke Meeus told Fox 25, "I remember flashes of it; worst moments; spending the night talking to him; hoping he would hear me."

Doctors say Chase died the Saturday following the training accident.  Meeus says, in her heart, she believes he was already gone that Friday night.  However, even in death Chase wasn't done giving.  His final wishes included that his organs go to those who would need them.  Meeus said it was an easy decision for him to make and one he never had second thoughts about.  But, it would be a year after her husband's death before she ever understood the impact of Kelley's final act of service.

"Dear Donor Family," the letter began.  It was a letter of thanks from the man who had received the gift of life from Kelley Chase.

"I only had time on my hands to wonder how much time I had left," the letter went on, "Only through the miracle gift of my heart transplant, I am able to continue to enjoy my life with my wife and children."

Through letters Meeus began to learn about the man who kept her husband's heart living on.

"A lot of people, and all of us at some time in our life, say I want to be a lottery winner," Ralph Howell told Fox 25, "I tell anybody alive I've already made the lottery win; one of the best of my life."

Howell was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, brought on by a virus.  His heart function was down to just 10 percent when an mechanical pump was put in with the hopes of maintaining his life until a donor heart could be found.  The Howells were told it could be years.

"What was I going to find every night when I came home from work? Was my husband still going to be alive?  Could I get to him?" Barbara Howell remembers thinking.

The Howells thought given the the timing of their donation and the news coverage of Chase's accident that he might be their donor.  They kept every newspaper article and piece of information they could find about his case.  They hoped to maintain a connection with him, but it would be a year before they found out for sure.  It would be several more months before they would be able to meet the love of Chase's life, his wife and children.  

The two families plan to stay close and have learned just how similar Ralph and Kelley really were.  Both men enjoyed working on motorcycles and cars and Ralph has offered to fix up a classic car that Kelley owned and had planned to work on with his son.  

The Howells say they are so thankful for the donation and, while they grieve with Meeus over the loss of her husband, they are glad they can welcome her family with open arms.

Meeus and the Howells hope their story inspires others to become organ donors.

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