'My Donor Is My Hero': Pauls Valley Man Receives Rare Triple-Organ Transplant

Doyle Duke saw himself hitting home runs on the baseball field, but the hit he ended up making was at the Mayo Clinic way in Phoenix, Arizona. Due to a rare congestive heart problem, Duke is one of the few people to receive a triple-organ transplant.

Sunday, July 23rd 2023, 7:03 pm


Growing up, Doyle Duke saw himself hitting home runs on the baseball field, but the hit he ended up making was at the Mayo Clinic way in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Now looking back, I probably wasn’t good enough for the pros, but I would have played the minor system to death,” said Pauls Valley resident Doyle Duke.

The lifelong Atlanta Braves fan loved playing sports.

“Well, I made a mistake and I forgot to get my physical for football,” said Duke. 

That was in 1984, and the advice the doctor gave from that physical would change Doyle’s life forever.

“Take him out of everything. Don’t let him walk, don’t let him do nothing until you see me again. Just let him sit in a chair and watch TV,” said Duke. 

Duke had a rare congestive heart problem. He had open heart surgery in 1995, a pacemaker installed in 1996 and things were not getting better.

“You know it just deteriorated from there,” said Duke. 

His body, feeling the effects, Duke had a real conversation with his doctor.

“You know doc, I think it may be time to start changing parts, and my wife just said oh Doyle just hush, and that doctor just looked at her and say no, he might be right,” said Duke.

“Mayo Clinic Arizona is the largest solid organ transplant program in the country, and I’m making sure, but it may be in the world as well,” said Dr. Bashar Aqel, of The Mayo Clinic Arizona. 

“Pursuing a heart transplant, they uncovered that his liver was sick as well, also they uncovered that his kidneys were sick,” said Dr. Aqel. 

Duke would need a triple-organ transplant, a first for the clinic, and thankfully an organ match was found quickly.

“They wheeled him out and the door closed, and I was just like oh, this is real,” said Billie Duke, Doyle’s wife.

“I will tell you there were three transplant teams that were involved in the surgery, the liver transplant team, the kidney transplant team, the heart transplant team,” said Dr. Aqel.

It would be a fourteen-hour procedure that started and ended on different days. Dr. Aqel estimates with doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, technicians, people bringing blood, and others there were between twelve and fifteen workers in the operating room for the full fourteen-hour procedure. 

With recovery from a surgery of this magnitude, doctors anticipate challenges. 

“Well, it would have been easier if I would not have had a pancreas problem and then my spleen ruptured. I was like 'oh my goodness', this is the worst thing,' and it is still the worst pain I have ever felt in my life,” said Duke. 

Through it all, Billie never left her husband’s side

“It grew me a lot closer to her because I knew she had my back,” said Duke. 

Now back home in Pauls Valley, the couple are advocates for organ donations.

“We have seen an uptick in people signing up to be organ donors,” said Dr. Aqel.

“My donor is my hero, he is my above all hero,” said Duke.

For information on becoming an organ donor in Oklahoma visit www.lifeshareoklahoma.org


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