Local man meets organ donor’s mother, visits community

Louise Oleson, DLJ editor
Doug Miller (left) is standing with Lana (Brown Thunder) Dauphinais, the mother of the late Kysier Dauphinais whose donated lung helped save Miller's life.

Local man, Doug Miller, took a trip with his daughter, Jade, over Labor Day 2019 to meet a very special person in Eagle Butte, SD.

Miller, 62, is a life-long resident of Devils Lake who suffered from a genetic lung disease, alpha one antitrypsin deficiency (AAT). The disease ravaged both his lungs to the point where he was put on the list waiting for transplant. His were functioning at 16% of capacity by then and Miller is convinced he was within a few months of dying.

But, the call came on Oct. 16, 2016, he was to get to the University of Minnesota as quickly as he could, they’d found a donor.

That call and the two and a half months at the U. of M. hospital saved his life.

Now, no longer limited to the length of the oxygen tube, Miller plays catch with his black lab pup, Bear, and goes to the gym regularly — you’d never know he was once so ill he couldn’t travel or work or do many other things most of us take for granted.

He’s doing great three years later, has good color, is robust and has a whole new lease on life. About three months ago he wrote a letter to the transplant coordinator at the U. of M. asking if he could meet the family of the donor, who had saved his life.

They responded to his request, yes, they wanted to meet him, too.

He learned that his donor was an 18 year old from Eagle Butte named Kysier Dauphinais who had committed suicide. Seven different individuals received organ donations from Kysier and his mom, Lana Brown Thunder Dauphinais wanted to meet all the people her son’s organs saved.

She works with troubled kids on the reservation and has become passionate about suicide prevention and the organization “Donate Life.” Miller said when they first met, he felt a bond with the mother of his donor as she talked about her son, his life and who he was.

Adamant that something good come out of her own tragedy, Lana works to help the people of Eagle Butte, by “paying it forward.” If someone is in need of a can of baby formula or a diaper or two to make it through the weekend, she provides help for them out of her own home, often out of her own pocket.

When he learned about that, Miller put it out on FaceBook that he would be heading to visit Lana over Labor Day and wanted to bring donations with him. The people of Devils Lake and the Lake Region responded generously. He and Jade brought a whole pick-up load of items with them that had been donated or purchased from donations; Pampers, formula, coats, clothing and many other items.

He participated in a parade in Eagle Butte for Donate Life, the organ donation registry, and met Kysier’s uncle Harry who had received a kidney from his nephew.

So far, Lana has met four of the seven people who received her son’s organs. She’d like to meet them all some day.

The experience touched Miller’s heart in a special way, too. He’s planning another trip to visit Lana and the folks he met at Eagle Butte and to bring even more donations next time.

In closing, Miller wanted to emphasize suicide prevention, and since September is Suicide Prevention Month, how appropriate that is!

He also wanted to encourage organ donation and to remind people of organizations like Donate Life, because as he says, where would he be now without it?

For more information about Donate Life go to https://www.donatelife.net.