After death, Tahoe man continues to give
By the time life support was shut off Monday at 3 a.m., three lives had been saved with the organs of Todd Pankey, a 37-year-old from South Lake Tahoe.
He suffered fatal injuries Friday night in a car accident on Pioneer Trail. For an unknown reason his 1999 red Mazda pickup crossed the centerline going westbound between Busch Way and Elks Club Drive and hit a dump truck head-on.
The 1971 10-wheel dump truck, owned by El Dorado County Department of Transportation, was heading east with full a load of snow. A 50-year-old behind the wheel suffered minor injuries in the wreck. He slammed on the brakes in a futile effort to avoid the small pickup, but the collision totaled both vehicles.
After a helicopter airlifted Pankey to Washoe County Medical Center, his wife Barbara, 42, stayed with him through the weekend while his body was kept alive long enough to coordinate donations.
“Three people are now alive because of his organs,” Barbara said. “In addition, his eyes were donated, a burned patient will get some tissue and a cancer patient will get his bone marrow. That just makes it so much easier to deal with, to know that.”
Barbara and Todd have been together for 10 years, during four of which they have been married.
Pankey sterilized surgical instruments at Carson Valley Medical Center, and also ran a cleaning business called Pankey Enterprises. The accident occurred as he was driving home after cleaning a residence. He had planned a weekend trip with his wife.
“He was amazing, really terrific,” said Laura Strong, director of Carson Valley Medical Center, where Pankey worked for two years. “He’s not going to be replaced very easily. He was extremely knowledgeable … I think he was genuinely caring, and very easygoing. Just easily approachable.”
Away from work, Pankey often volunteered his time. For the last several years he and his wife did mission work in Central America, paying their way each time. In November, as part of a group of Christians from South Shore, the couple went to Guatemala for several weeks to build a church and teach the Bible to children.
“I worked pretty closely with him in Central America,” Bill Gieg, organizer of Church Family Missions, said. “He was always a giving and caring person. He had a spirit of sacrifice with his time and his finances. He was great working with children – a real trooper.”
Pankey also shared a lot of time with his three stepsons and coached for Northern California Special Olympics. His youngest stepson, a 14-year-old with autism, has won 16 medals in competition.
A memorial service for Pankey will be held at Lake Tahoe Christian Fellowship today at 6:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to Northern California Special Olympics.
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