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Remembering Damian: Lincoln man’s life impacting others

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 4:44 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - A recent donation to the Autism Family Network is now at work helping families in Lincoln. The donation was made in honor of Damian Olander, a Lincoln man who had autism and died of kidney failure last November. Damian’s family hoped his life will teach others that sometimes we learn the most from people who don’t speak at all.

Damian Olander did not have an easy life. He was non-verbal, autistic and fought kidney issues for his entire 27 years. Damian was originally denied a kidney transplant because of his developmental delays. For the first several years of his life, Damian had to get reconstructive surgery every 6 months.

“It was an intense time of struggle during those first 3 or 4 years,” said his mom, Becci Olander.

The Olanders looked for transplant options, but Damian was rejected. Shortly after, the Olanders learned Damian’s dad, Bob, was a match.

“It was never a thought,” said Bob. “I was going to do it. I was happy to do it. I think any parent would have done it.”

Bob’s kidney gave Damian a second lease on life, lasting him nearly 25 years to the date.

“You look at him every day and realize you’ve kept him here,” said Bob. “We gave him that chance, and he made the impact that he did.”

Bob and Becci said Damian had an impact on everyone he met. He loved smiley faces, balloons, Halloween, M&M’s and especially spending time with his dad.

“I would consider him, next to Becci, my best friend. It was really like that the last 7 years,” said Bob. “We hardly went any place without each other”

2 years ago, the Olanders learned Damian’s kidney was failing. Instead of putting him through rounds of medical procedures, they decided to make the rest of his life fun. He even got to spend his favorite holiday, Halloween, with family.

“We had a big family party where everybody came in costumes and in his favorite things, it was in the middle of the summer,” said Becci. “We decided to make Halloween big for him this year. We had 80-some jack-o-lanterns in our front yard for Halloween. He was not feeling well, pretty tired, but he loved that night. And it was the next weekend that he died.”

Just weeks ago, the family hosted a memorial event for Damian at the SaltDogs game. One family was so inspired by his story, they donated a thousand dollars in Damian’s name to the Autism Family Network. Said Becci:

“He was nonverbal, but he spoke volumes.”

Becci and Bob said they are glad to know their son’s life is making a lasting impact. They suggest you can carry on Damian’s legacy, too, by smiling being patient and enjoying the little things in life.

If you are interested in making a financial contribution in Damian’s name, they recommend any Nebraska organization that helps families with autism, like the Autism Family Network or the Nebraska Transition College.

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