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Dec 18, 2008 4:28 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Homicide victim's last act was a generous one

Dec 18, 2008 4:28 PM

“It’s huge, because normally they wait at least 36 hours to make sure you can pass urine,” Ms. Reister said.

Since the transplant, Mr. Olson said he never had another dialysis treatment, and his body is healthier, his skin has its color back, his blood pressure is under control and he has much more energy.

“I never met him in my life, but I’ll never forget him,” Mr. Olson said of Mr. Reister. “I have a picture of him, and I know what a wonderful person he was in life.”

The Olsons are planning to visit Hampton Bays in February, but Mr. Olson said so far he and Ms. Reister have only communicated in writing, with postcards and e-mail. “It’s just too hard right now, too emotional,” he said. “When I think of him, I cry, and when she thinks of him, she cries.”

The day after the operation, Mr. Olson received a letter in the mail informing him he was approved to receive a transplant. Mr. Olson’s kidneys were ravaged by multiple myeloma, a cancer of bone marrow plasma cells.

First, he broke his back in April 2006, when the cancer weakened his bones. A month later, he lost his kidney function, and since then, up until he had the transplant, he had to visit a dialysis center in New Mexico every week, three days a week, for four hours at a time. “I could have done it for the rest of my life, but then my life wouldn’t have been very long and certainly not very fruitful,” he said.

Mr. Olson visited University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona in August, this year for an initial evaluation to see if he was eligible for a transplant. He was in Tucson for two days, returning to New Mexico on August 6, the same evening Mr. Reister would head to work at the Publick House for the last time.

Mr. Reister had started moonlighting at the Publick House a few months earlier. Once a week, on Ladies’ Night, he checked IDs at the door. Police said that around 1 a.m. on August 7, Mr. Reister asked Anthony Oddone of Farmingville, who is now 26 years old, to stop dancing on a table. It was then that Mr. Oddone choked Mr. Reister and would not let go even after Mr. Reister passed out, according to police. Mr. Oddone fled the Publick House in a cab—a police officer apprehended him just minutes later—while other patrons quickly began to try to resuscitate Mr. Reister.

“We didn’t save Andrew that night, but thank God they did CPR,” Ms. Reister said. “He never regained consciousness, but they were able to keep him alive long enough to get everybody what they needed.”

At her husband’s funeral, on August 14, in front of a standing-room only crowd at St. Rosalie’s Catholic Church in Hampton Bays, Ms. Reister told everyone to get out a pen and sign the back of their driver’s license, where it says “I hereby make an anatomical gift.”

“At least 200 people told me that they signed their license because of Andrew,” she said.

Ms. Reister said on Friday that she signed up to be a speaker for the New York Organ Donor Network, to encourage even more people to become donors. “I’m going to go into the high schools and the colleges and tell Andrew’s story ...” she said. “With that age group in particular, nobody talks about donating.”

She has some training in public speaking: “Andrew and I met in an oral communication class in college.”

On the first day of class at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead, Mr. Reister had walked into the classroom late. “There was only one seat open, and it happened to be next to me,” Ms. Reister said.

For the first day, the students were told to write a question on a piece of paper and throw it in a hat. Then each student drew a slip of paper from the hat and gave an impromptu speech on the topic. “His was on organ donation,” Ms. Reister recalled. He was asked if he was ever on life support, would he want the plug to be pulled. He said “Yes,” and went on to talk about how he welcomed the idea of donating his organs. “He said, ‘Yeah, once I’m gone, I’m gone. What the hell do I need them for?’” Ms. Reister said. “I’ll never forget it. He was wearing a kelly green sweater.”

The woman who submitted the question was sitting in front of Mr. Reister and began crying hysterically, Ms. Reister said. “She had just taken her newborn off life support, and she chose to donate.” Ms. Reister said that even though she was crying, the woman said she was so glad to hear Mr. Reister’s answer.

Mr. Reister’s skin, tissue and leg veins were also donated as were his legs bones, which were used for reconstructive surgeries. “On average, they can help between 60 and 65 people, and Andrew was 6-4, so he had a lot of potential,” Ms. Reister said with a laugh.

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I still can't believe this happened. I miss Andrew and my heart breaks when I think about him. Thank you again to this wonderful community for the hugs, support and concern.
By SD (2), HB on Dec 23, 08 9:10 PM
God Bless this family for having such courage and class. what a truly wonderful story of taking a bad and making it into a good. But this has to be brought to attention as well. Why in the bad taste of the publishers of this normally wonderful newspaper. Is on the other "big news' of the week, a picture and TWO PAGE article highlighting the Sullivans new home? The very owners of the establishment where Mr.Reister lost his life. Come on have we become that inconsiderate of a society where such two ...more
By rosewood (3), southampton on Dec 30, 08 10:56 AM
power tools, home improvements, building supplies, Eastern Long Island