FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Malia May, an organ transplant recipient, stood yesterday at the First Hawaiian Bank offices in Kalihi where she works.
Slaying victim gives gift of life
After 42 years and an organ transplant last year, Malia May was no longer a diabetic.
The pancreas and kidney she received began working the minute they were in place. All she was told of her "miracle" donor was that he was a North Carolina man who died recently.
Days later she read media reports of North Carolina resident Christopher Reuther, who was killed by a fatal blow to his neck while taking photographs at Zablan Beach Park.
"They didn't tell me he was killed," she said through tears. "I know what was given up for me, and I have never forgotten that my organs came from a young man who lost his life."
Reuther applied to be an organ donor the day he received his driver's license. When he was removed from life support on April 26, 2007, May was immediately notified that she had a match.
The 45-year-old Kapolei resident has been a type 1 diabetic since she was 3. Over the years, she developed rheumatoid arthritis and lost sight in one of her eyes and the ability to have children.
Last year she was on dialysis for a few months after her kidney gave out. When Reuther died, she was notified of Reuther's organ match by the Hawaii Medical Center East. The three-hour surgery was done the next day, and she no longer had diabetes.
"The doctors said they've never had a transplant work like that," she said. "The organs didn't reject my body at all. I just went along, and I've now been able to enjoy my life."
May asked to contact Reuther's mother, Judy Wilson, in North Carolina. For several months the two exchanged letters through the hospital. They only recently began contacting each other directly, and began building a "beautiful relationship," May said.
"Our letters touched each other so much," Wilson said. "She's just delightful. He continues to do good even in his death."
Wilson said her son's organs have been distributed across Oahu and the mainland. Someone in Minnesota received his veins. His kidney, cornea and liver have all be given to others around Oahu as well.
Another blessing, May said, is that her co-workers were inspired by Reuther's act. She is a wire specialist at First Hawaiian Bank, where she has worked for 26 years.
"Because of his gift, some of them have become donors, and it's given them something to think about," she said.
May said she is more than happy to be part of Wilson's support network over the past several months of grieving. The two often cry together over the phone, and May enjoys hearing stories about the man who helped her reclaim her life.
"My heart breaks for Judy, but I know she's comforted by knowing that Christopher's done this wonderful thing and that part of him is still alive," May said. "I call Christopher my guardian angel."