'As one light goes out, another goes on'

As an avid outdoorsman, 69-year-old Karl Roswall would often be found in the woods logging, chopping wood and working on his log cabin. Karl was born and raised in Finland where chopping wood was second nature to him. So in March 2011, it came as a great shock to everyone when Karl was gravely injured in an accident doing what he loved—cutting wood.

Karl lived life out loud. Maria, his wife of 44 years, says he was very outgoing, well read, had a great sense of humor and never shied away from a good argument. He liked to travel, dance, ski and take his grandkids sledding.

“He liked people and everyone liked him. Once you met him, you remembered him,” she says.

Karl Roswall

The decision to say good-bye to this spirited man who loved life and his family beyond measure was more difficult than most people can imagine. The decision to donate his organs was not.

“The doctor came in to talk to us,” Maria recalls. “The simple act of sitting down on a low stool, so as not to tower over me, and taking my hand really touched me. He told us Karl was a candidate for organ donation. While Karl and I had never discussed organ donation, I knew he would want it. He was always willing to help others.”

About a year later, on Mother’s Day, Maria found a letter in her mailbox from the Organ Procurement Office in Madison, Wis. Inside was a letter from the recipient of Karl’s kidneys. The woman, in her 40s had a genetic kidney disease. Her mother had died of the disease so she truly understood the value of Karl’s gift. She told Maria that she and her husband were taking a trip to Italy—something they would have never considered before because of her health.

Months later, she had an opportunity to meet the woman and her family. The grateful recipient brought Maria a gift—a quilt she had made, appropriately enough, in a traditional log cabin pattern. Maria gave the woman a double-light switch plate she had hand-painted telling her, “As one light goes out, another goes on.”

Maria also received a letter from the recipient of Karl’s liver—a man in his 40s with five children. For him, Karl’s gift meant he and his sons got to go hunting together for the first time in years.

“I was glad to hear from both recipients. I no longer have to wonder if the transplants worked. It’s also a comforting thought to know these people are able to carry on in life,” says Maria.

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Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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