A father. A husband. A brother. A son. Cody Dunham is many things to many people. To the recipients of his corneas, his skin and his bones, he is a true hero.
In January 2009, when 30-year-old Cody of Divernon, Ill. lost his life in a car accident, his family was faced with the decision whether or not to donate his tissue to others. Because of Cody’s caring personality and his wish to become a donor, his family chose to change another’s life through the miracle of transplantation.
Said his mother, Bonnie, “Cody had expressed interest in becoming an organ and tissue donor to all of us, even though we didn’t discuss it too much. We knew that’s what he wanted.” His sister, Tara, agreed, “He was kind of gruff, but would do anything for anyone and had a huge heart.”
Throughout his life, Cody was dedicated to taking care of those around him. When he wasn’t spending time with his family and friends, Cody was helping others in his community. Cody volunteered as a fire fighter for the Pawnee Fire Protection District in his twenties and spent time helping area farmers during the planting and harvesting seasons.
Cody was obsessed with NASCAR. The passing of his idol, Dale Earnhardt, hit Cody especially hard. “I remember when Earnhardt passed, I never knew someone could be that upset about a person they didn’t know personally,” remarked Cody’s wife, Scarlett. “Cody was pretty passionate about the things he cared about.” In addition, Cody, an avid sports fan, followed Notre Dame, the Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Cardinals, as well as loved gambling and playing poker with his friends.
At the time of his passing, Cody worked at Rettberg’s Inc. in Divernon, installing furnaces and air conditioners. “They all loved him there,” said Bonnie. “After he died, the company sent a letter to over 1,000 of their customers, letting them know about Cody since he had worked in their homes. The response was amazing. Many customers wrote back saying they remembered Cody and contributed donations to his son Kasen’s college fund.”
It’s no wonder Cody continues to change lives after he lost his own. According to Bonnie, Cody helped save the eye of one of his recipients. “In her case, she didn’t get her sight back, but because of a hole in her cornea, she would have lost her entire eye. Cody’s cornea healed her eye. It’s like Cody is still alive, and a part of him is with her. I just can’t wait to meet her someday.”