Postal worker Dannie K. Cubit isn't sure what he'll say when he finally speaks with Hilde Kvant on a satellite hookup to Norway. Just how should he thank the person who saved his life?
"I don't have the words to say thank you," Cubit says. "I would give them a big hug and a kiss if I could."It's been two months since a grief-stricken Kvant decided her brother's sudden death while vacationing in Seattle should help save lives through organ donation.
The heart, heart valves, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and liver of 32-year-old Bjorn Ove Grandum were made available for transplant.
His left lung went to 44-year-old Cubit, who was gravely ill with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease of unknown origin that scars the lungs' air sacs.
The identities of organ donors and recipients are usually kept confidential to protect everyone's privacy. But when Cubit and his wife, Angie, saw an Associated Press account of Kvant's international gesture of compassion, they put two and two together.
They knew the donor had been a relatively young man who'd died of a brain aneurysm, and the timing was right - Grandum had collapsed April 13, and Cubit received his new lung April 16. They wanted to thank the family.
Tamila Timm, procurement coordinator for LifeCenter Northwest, which coordinates organ donations for Washington, Alaska, northern Idaho and Montana, called Hilde and Ivar Kvant to see if they were interested in contact with the Cubits.
"We didn't want to do anything that would hurt them," Cubit said.
But the Kvants welcomed the opportunity. Now, a satellite linkup between the families is in the works through ABC's "Good Morning America." A date has not been set.
Angie Cubit already knows what she'll say to them. "I would want them to know I do feel for them," she said. "I do want to thank them for giving my husband life."
Kvant has things she wants to say as well. "I am curious about them," she said in an interview from Arnatveit, Norway. "It is very strange to think he has an organ that belongs to my brother, who is dead now."
She wants the Cubits to know her brother was a hard-working taxi driver in Oslo and the father of two children, ages 3 and 13.
"He was very fine and good-looking," Kvant said, recalling the adventurous man who came to Seattle on vacation and planned to travel up the coast to British Columbia.
Grandum collapsed in his hotel room in suburban Seattle. He was able to call his sister from the hospital, but by the time the Kvants reached Harborview Medical Center on April 15, he was on life support.
Organ donation by foreign nationals is rare in the United States, says Joel Newman, a spokesman for the United Network for Organ Sharing in Richmond, Va.
Cubit says he hasn't developed cravings for Scandinavian food, but his sleep patterns have changed. He gets up early and stays up late, perhaps a bit like a hard-working taxi driver.