A fallen officer’s organs help another officer see again

Posted at 6:47 PM, Nov 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-07 06:12:29-05

Virginia Beach, Va. - It's still hard for Martha Danielson to talk about her husband, Newport News Officer Steve Rutherford.  He was shot 20 years ago while working undercover, disguised as a pizza delivery driver.

"We said the usual be carefuls and I love yous and I hung up.  Little did I know that in a little over an hour's time that my world would be turned upside down in a way that I never imagined," said Danielson.

Martha told his story Thursday in front of several Hampton Roads police officers  who were being honored for taking action to save lives through donor referral calls.

Rutherford was 28 years old when he was killed.  He was also an organ donor.  His death was turned into life and sight for another -- another brother in uniform.

"Sir, I could only see my hand like that.  I was just about blind," said retired Virginia State Trooper Dwight Gochenour at the ceremony.

Gochenour could not see out of his right eye.  He suffered from corneal ulcers.  But little did he know that a cornea transplant from Rutherford would save his eyesight and his job.

"This donation of the cornea has been a lifesaver to me really.  It kept me working," said Gochenour.

He now has 20/20 vision in his right eye.   In fact, he doesn't even need to wear glasses.  He uses them only for reading.

"Seeing him today, and as silly as it may sound, looking into that eye, obviously it's not Steve's eye, but it's just a feeling that's very hard to describe," said Danielson.

It's been a few years since Martha and Gochenour have seen each other, but every time they do, it's like old times.

"He's always with me. But yeah, when I look at Dwight, it's a very special feeling.  And I'm just glad that he can still see and he's doing great.  So, that's the rainbow for me in the whole situation," said Danielson.