All her life, Joy Trieglaff was a giver. She sang in her church choir in Wheaton, Ill., volunteered at a Chicago-based adaptive sailing program for people with disabilities, traveled to Belize to help an organization with its accessibility needs, built and repaired homes with her husband, Mark, and at the end of her adventurous life, Joy gave the ultimate gift – herself.
“We didn't have a good marriage, we had a great marriage,” Mark said. “It was the kind of marriage that I had always dreamed of.”
From cliff jumping in Hawaii to swimming with sharks in Belize to simply racing each other down separate elevators, for nearly four decades, Joy and Mark experienced the world together.
“We ended up just doing silly things, and just laughing,” he said. “It was the idea of your best friend that you ended up fortunate enough to marry. Joy was my best friend.”
Joy was 63 when she passed away from an aneurysm in her suburban home on May 13, 2022. Becoming an eye, organ and tissue donor was something Joy decided at a young age. Mark said that when the time came, Joy knew she wanted to help and save as many lives as possible.
Because of that decision, and through her kindness and generosity, Joy was able to do just that.
Molly Boes, a 38-year-old mother, was gifted a second chance at life after receiving Joy’s lungs in 2022. This was Molly’s third attempt at getting a lung transplant and at that time, her own lungs were functioning at only 12 percent.
“I have a second chance at living,” Molly said. “I'm a mom, again. I'm a daughter, I'm a friend, I'm everything again. I have my life back.”
In 2017, Molly was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called susac syndrome, a disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the inside lining of the walls of the tiny blood vessels that supply blood to the brain, retina and inner ear.
“I was on high doses of steroids and once they weaned me off of them, I couldn't breathe, and nobody knew why,” Molly said.
After that first doctor’s visit, her lung function was at 28% and continued dropping until her lung transplant.
Due to her failing lungs, Molly couldn’t take care of herself or her daughter, Lucy, without assistance. It was at this point in 2019 that Molly and her family had to make the decision of either trying for a lung transplant or transition to end-of-life care. They took the chance and added Molly to the transplant waiting list.
After an eight-and-a-half-hour surgery, Molly woke up with Joy’s lungs and was able to breathe for the first time in years.
“I was baffled,” she said. “I was in awe, there were no words. I was still alive.”
Molly’s life was saved by the decision Joy made to become a donor. She could eat, drink, walk and lie down again without trouble breathing. She could watch her daughter grow up without the fear of dying before Lucy reached adolescence.
“All I wanted was to know my donor and their family,” Molly said. “I know I'm going to see her again in heaven and give her the hug she deserves. I always prayed for that.”
When Molly got home from the hospital, the first thing she did was write to her donor’s family, to Mark Trieglaff. Within a few months of that initial contact, Mark and Molly became fast friends.
“I have a second family and I told them that from the very beginning that they are family and always will be family forever,” Molly said.
Throughout their correspondence, Mark discovered that the house Molly stayed at during her checkups at Loyola University Medical Center was only three blocks away from his family’s home.
“Over the past four years, we might have passed each other on the street, in the store, wherever,” Mark said.
Both Mark and Molly believe their paths crossed for a reason that wasn’t mere coincidence.
“Joy's lungs were the lungs I was supposed to have,” she said. “God and Joy saved my life.”
Not only did Joy save Molly’s life, but she gave the gift of sight to two others. Her decision to become a donor transformed the lives of three people. Both of Joy’s corneas were transplanted, giving two people another chance at sight and with it, restored independence.
“I hope that people will realize what a blessing they can be to others by donation,” Mark said. “I would encourage them not to be afraid of it, or hesitant to become a donor.”
You, too, can change lives. Share Joy’s story, join the donor registry and tell your loved ones how important it is to you. And one day, you may give as Joy gave.
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