Transplant group pays tribute to lost members

Two trees planted in McHenry park

McHENRY – For each of the last two years, two trees have been planted in McHenry Township Park behind the McHenry Township recreation facility.

Each tree is in memory of someone connected to the Transplant Support Group of Northern Illinois, either a member or a relative of a member.

This year is no different.

Following its monthly meeting, the support group, joined by friends and family, will gather at the park to remember Ruthann Altmayer and Barbara Kinsala.

Kinsala, 58, of McHenry, died June 16, 2011, while waiting for a liver transplant.

Her husband, Don Kinsala, joined the support group shortly after her death.

“He’s been a big help to our group,” member Carol Prebianca said. “He’s gone down to the hospital and different things, trying to get answers to why some people get transplants and others don’t.”

After receiving a kidney transplant in 2001, Altmayer joined the support group and went on to win the gold medal for bowling in the Transplant Olympics.

She died May 27, 2013, at age 74.

“She was just always there,” Prebianca said. “She always had something good or nice or funny to say.”

The support group meets at 10 a.m. the third Saturday of every month, usually at Centegra Hospital – McHenry.

“It helps everybody before and after [a transplant],” Prebianca said. “We’ve had people come before, just to know what they have to look forward to, what to expect before surgery and after surgery, the healing process mentally, physically.”

The group has been a help to Prebianca, who joined the group shortly after she received her new liver on Christmas Day 2007.

“Anytime we have a problem, somebody there has been through it,” she said.