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The Gift of Life from a Brother in Blue

Picture of Speights and DIlg standing outside near cruisers

A framed newspaper front-page hangs in F/Lt. Detrich Speights’ office at the Lansing Post. In the center is a picture highlighting one of President George W. Bush’s campaign visits to Michigan in 2000. Four Michigan State Police troopers flank him.

Speights is to President Bush’s right with Capt. Ken Dilg to his right. At the time, both Speights and Dilg were troopers assigned to the Motor Unit, which was part of the motorcade that day. Their positions in the photo didn’t mean much then, but now they seem serendipitous given what’s transpired throughout the last year.

“In the picture, he’s just slightly behind me,” explains Speights. “It’s like he has my back. Now I have his kidney.”

“The good one,” jokes Dilg, commander of the Organizational Development Division. “He has three kidneys now. They left the bad ones in and added mine to the mix.”

Picture of Speights and Dilg sitting at desk laughing

April is National Donate Life Month. Dilg’s generous contribution means his longtime friend and colleague can tell a survival story.

Speights doesn’t dwell on the details leading up to his dire situation in 2019, though he believes overusing over-the-counter pain reliever to treat an old sports injury contributed to his kidney failure.

The warning signs included new, nagging side pains when running. Then came the swollen leg that landed him in the emergency room, after he spent a night in the field working with his post troopers. Doctors told him he had a massive blood clot that could have ended him had he ignored the symptom.

In the months that followed, his health steadily declined, and Speights desperately needed help. Like most police officers, he was reluctant to ask for it. He was placed on the national donor registry in November 2020 and thought he could wait it out opting against trying for a living donor, a process that could have taken anywhere from 5 - 7 years.

“I didn’t want to burden anyone,” said Speights. “I figured I had a good run and what was supposed to happen, would.”

There were good and bad days and plenty of check-ins from his law enforcement family. Speights credits the persistence of two people he’d worked with in the Sixth District.

“They caught me on a day when I really wasn’t feeling great,” says Speights. “They went through their routine of talking about going on the donor list and I agreed.”

Someone else had a hand in easing his mind. A Lansing Post trooper arranged for Tpr. Christopher Boven to speak with him about being an organ recipient.  Boven received part of Tpr. David Burr’s liver in 2019.

Burr’s gift of life came after dozens of department members and others volunteered for the screening in hopes of being a donor match for Boven.

“I had never met or spoken to Trooper Boven until that day,” says Speights. “He gave me a different perspective of the surgery and the possibilities I was not considering.”

A departmentwide email went out in December 2020 urging potential donors to contact Michigan Medicine where Speights was registered.

“I told my wife I wanted to do this, to help however I could,” said Dilg. “Admittedly, the process wasn’t a breeze for me, but he’s healthy again and that’s what truly matters. If you’re able to do this for someone, I encourage it. It’s a lifesaving blessing and rewarding for the donor too.”

As a small sign of his appreciation, and for a laugh, Speights recently gave Dilg a knife inscribed with the word “motorman,” a nod to their time together on the Motor Unit, and the phrase, “a ‘real’ organ donor.”

Picture of Dilg holding knife Speights gifted him

On average, 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month, according to the National Kidney Foundation. For more information on transplants and how to become a living donor, visit their website.

Other organizations include:

Be the Match

Donate Life America

Gift of Life

According to Michigan Medicine, there are more than 2,000 individuals on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the state of Michigan. Visit the University of Michigan Transplantation Center’s webpage to complete the kidney transplant donor form.