Ray’s Hero of the Day: Slain cop’s wife donates his heart to Vietnam veteran
Listen to the words of Mary DiNardo as she describes the faint heartbeat of her husband, Detective Marc DiNardo beat its last – hoping that through some kind of miracle he could regain consciousness.
Unfortunately that did not happen. At that point, she decided he’d live on through organ donation – the recipient of one of his heart was a 71 year old Vietnam veteran whose own was degenerating due to a virus.
You may remember the story of Det. DiNardo.
He was the last Jersey City police officer to die in the line of duty before the assassination of Police Officer Melvin Santiago 2 weeks go – having died in a shootout in 2009 with 2 suspects – and being on life support for 5 days.
Today would have been his 43rd birthday.
For three days, Mary DiNardo sat at her husband's bedside hoping that he would wake up.
When doctors told her there was nothing more they could do for the 10-year veteran of the Jersey City Police Department who was shot in the line of duty days earlier, she made the decision that her husband, Det. Marc DiNardo, would be an organ donor.
Hours later, Don Zolkiwsky was handing over his wedding ring for his wife to hold while he underwent a heart transplant surgery to save his life.
For Don and his family, July 21, 2009, was like a second birthday. For DiNardo and her three children, "it was the day that broke our family," she said.
Five years later, DiNardo and Zolkiwsky stood together and honored Marc's legacy, while advocating for donor awareness at the NJ Sharing Network Gift of Life Fifth Anniversary Ceremony in New Providence.
"We lost a husband, father, a son, a friend, but in the past five years we have gained many friends that have become our new family," DiNardo said this morning, on what would have been her husband's 43rd birthday. "To honor him, to remember him, to be able to do something so wonderful in his name and bring awareness to organ and tissue donation and to just show that his legacy lives on and he won't be forgotten, it was good event today."
Zolkiwsky, 71-year-old Vietnam veteran, wore his Purple Heart in honor of his hero and donor – the man he now considers to be his "blood brother."
Mary, her three children, and Marc's mother Mary, were all presented with the Purple Heart Challenge Coin from military personnel. They were also given sunflowers from the Sharing Network, symbolizing Marc being a seed that grew to save the lives of three other donor recipients. His heart went to Zolkiwsky, while others benefited from his two kidneys, bone and tissue donations.
Upon notification that he would be receiving a heart, all Zolkiwsky knew was that a fresh organ was coming from a 37-year-old male. But as time went on, pieces of his donor's story began filter into Zolkiwsky's life.
"It is a bitter sweet thing," Zolkiwsky said. "Someone had to die for me to live. This man was a hero to me, an absolute hero."
Just knowing that her husbands organs give the gift of life to others is some degree of comfort to the wife of the brave detective who’d given his.
Mary DiNardo and her husband Det. Marc DiNardo who gave his life to protect the citizens of Jersey City – today’s Ray the Ray – Heroes of the Day