Zachary E. Dueger, a graduate of the Park School and a senior at the University of Buffalo, became an eye and tissue donor upon his passing on November 19, 2008.
His parents, Pat and Bill, shared this remembrance:
Heroism is defined as someone who demonstrates courage and is admired for his brave deeds and qualities. That truly fits our son Zachary.
He was a healthy 22-year-old going to UB and working part time parking cars at Sabres games and other events. He loved his grandmother, us, his brother Joshua, his cat Kittyman, his friends, aggressive skating, Sanibel Island, his car, his job, photography and school.
Zachary was opinionated and stubborn, loving and caring, he would phone home just to say he loved us. He was the kid who picked daisies in the outfield during Little League and then made the All Star team the next year. He spoke full sentences at a year old, which surprised the pediatrician.
In Kindergarten he told his teacher that trees give us oxygen. She said in 30 years of teaching she had never had a child say that. Throughout his short life Zachary was always one to bring joy and humor to others. If he met a stranger he would often talk to them as if he knew them for life.
One time at the Kennedy Space Center tour when he was about 8, he sat with another family in the front of the bus and talked to them for 30 minutes like he was a member of their family. It was always a joy to watch Zachary just being Zachary.
He loved animals. His beloved Kittyman (a rescue cat) was chosen by him from the SPCA. He asked for the oldest cat that had been there the longest because he was afraid that cat would not be adopted. We can't tell you how many times we found Kittyman with a blanket over him because Zach was afraid he was cold. It was evident that they needed each other.
In February 2008 he had what we thought was the flu. Not getting better, we finally had a diagnosis of Wegener's Vasculitis in March. This horrible autoimmune disease presented itself with migraines, joint swelling, fevers, nausea, extremely high blood pressure and high blood sugar to name a few symptoms. It took away his ability to enjoy skating, the normal life of a 22-year-old, even driving at times. In June, 2008 it destroyed his kidneys and he had to start dialysis and we begin the search for a kidney.
His brother (also a hero) Joshua immediately stepped up and was tested, despite his irrational fear of needles. He was a match! We just needed the unrelenting disease to leave Zach's body. It never did. This poor kid suffered everyday till he passed. Never once did he complain. Instead, he always asked us how we were doing.
Zach continued with classes at UB and worked although we are not sure how with the extent of his illness and the draining effects of dialysis 3 times a week. Sometimes he was too sick to drive himself and we would take him. He parked cars downtown in the heat and freezing cold (against our wishes) with fevers, nausea, headaches and pain, always being the gentleman with a "Have a good day!” His friends, some he still had from his Park School days, stood by him through it all, taking him out when he was too sick to drive or coming over to sit with him when he was too sick to go out. He often told us how grateful he was for them, his brother whom he adored and us.
On November 19th, 2008, at the age of 23, he suddenly lost his battle. We were grief stricken and numb. Imagine our surprise when we arrived home from making funeral arrangements and Unyts called saying Zach had signed as a donor. We were stunned. He was selfless enough to offer the gift of life to others at such a young age. It seemed so right. Although many of his organs had been ravaged by the Vasculitis, he was able to donate his corneas, bone and skin to help others.
People like Zachary and his brother who donate are true heroes. It is the ultimate gift. We miss our hero Zach every single day, but part of him lives on and for this we are grateful.
See Zachary's Quilt Square here.