If Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey recovers from a rare double-transplant operation, he will learn that his new heart and liver came from a 34-year-old computer programer who died after being beaten by suspected gang members.
For privacy reasons, identities of organ donors are rarely divulged. But Tuesday, the parents of William Michael Lucas stepped forward to answer questions about their son, whose donated organs were transplanted into the 61-year-old, two-term governor a day earlier.
Lucas was remembered as a young man who was trying to make something of himself in Monessen, Pa., a one-time steel mill town about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River.
"His mother described him as a giving person who played with neighborhood children and always tried to be a role model," said Brian Brosnick, director of the Center for Organ Recovery and Education that procured Lucas' organs for transplant.
Brosnick said Lucas' parents, Alvin and Francis Lucas, decided to go public about the organ donation because they were being "hounded" by the press. How the identity of their son leaked out isn't certain, but the lead story in Monessen's Valley Independent newspaper Monday alluded to the donor as a 34-year-old Monessen man.
While reporters scurried to dig up details of Lucas' life, Monessen police were saying little about his death.
Initial police reports quoted witnesses who on June 6 saw "five carloads of black men" arrive at Lucas' Monessen home, where he was later found severely beaten.
Lucas underwent two operations at a Pittsburgh hospital, but he was declared brain-dead a week later, when his mother consented to the donation of his organs.
Lucas' size _ he had been at basketball player at Monessen High _ helped make his heart and liver compatible for transplant with the 6-foot-2 Casey.
Lucas' kidneys were also transplanted. They went to Pittsburgh men, aged 36 and 61, who had been awaiting transplants for about a year, Brosnick said. Race is an important matching factor in kidney transplants, and Lucas and the kidney recipients are black, Brosnick said.
Monessen police told the Valley Independent that "gangs and drug activity" were suspected in connection with Lucas' murder.
But police offered no evidence that Lucas was involved in any illegal activity. And Brosnick said the screen of Lucas' organs _ a routine test performed prior to all organ donations _ revealed no drugs in his system.
Valley Independent reporter Karen Peters said the word on the street was that Lucas might have been a victim of mistaken identity.
Anatomy of two transplants
Pennsylvania's Gov. Robert Casey underwent emergency heart-liver transplant Monday in hopes of curing a fatal disease. Doctors had already determined that Casey needed a liver transplant, but weekend tests showed his heart wasn't strong enough for that operation.
How a heart is transplanted
When the heart is removed frm the patient, the back half of the left and right atrium are left in place. The front half of the donor heart's left atrium is sewn to the patient's left atrium. The the heart is swung over so the right atrium chambers can be sewn together. Once the heart is in place, the donor's aorta and pulmonary arteries are sewn to the patient's arteries
How a liver is transplanted
1. Once the liver is completely removed from the patient, surgeons connect the upper and lower ends of recipient's inferior vena cava (the principal vein that returns blood from the lower half of the body into the heart) to the vena cava of the donor organ.
2. Next, the portal vein, which drains blood from the recipient's intestinal tract and spleen, is attached, followed by the attachment of the celiac artery, which supplies the abdominal area with blood.
3. The final steps include connecting the gallbladder by linking the bile ducts. Ligaments are then attached to hold the organ in place.