More than 22,000 Californians are currently waiting for an organ transplant, according to Donate Life California. Nationally, 150 people are added to the list daily. These patients have exhausted all other options. They need a new organ to save their lives. Many wait years for the fateful call that a matching organ has been found.
This is why hospitals across the country partner with Donate Life and Lifesharing organizations to promote organ and tissue donation. In April of each year we celebrate Donate Life month, holding special events to honor those who have given the gift of life to others. Throughout the year we conduct community outreach activities to encourage members of the public to register as an organ and tissue donor.
The unfortunate and sad reality is that it often takes tragedy for one generous individual or family to give others a chance to live.
In October, Gwen, a 51-year-old mother of three, suffered an anoxic brain injury and was admitted to Tri-City Medical Center. Tri-City has been a leader in treating stroke patients for decades and is uniquely capable and highly regarded in this area. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of a team of clinicians, Gwen’s condition deteriorated.
But fortunately for others, Gwen was a registered organ and tissue donor through Donate Life California. A longstanding partnership between Tri-City and Lifesharing allowed us to honor her wish at the end of her life.
On the evening of October 15th, teams of medical professionals from around Southern California descended on the hospital, each prepared to bring Gwen’s precious organs and tissue back to patients in need.
In a show of respect for Gwen and her family, the staff of Tri-City Medical Center—from environmental services workers, to clinicians, to administrators—lined the halls of the hospital in an Honor Walk, a moving tribute to Gwen in her final moments. We stood in silent respect and wept with Gwen’s family not only in sadness for the life lost, but in recognition of the lives that would soon be saved through Gwen’s sacrifice.
“It’s hard not to become emotional because the Lifesharing organ donation program gives grieving families dealing with senseless loss and tragedy and unimaginable pain a chance to find promise and purpose in one last final act of immeasurable kindness,” said Dr. Gene Ma, Chief Medical Officer for Tri-City Medical Center.
“It’s really hard to imagine how one life can have such a profound impact on so many people—literally strangers who become beneficiaries of this precious gift of courage, humanity, and generosity. The Honor Walk allows each of us to pay our deepest respects to a person who chooses to celebrate their life by giving others a chance to live. There are no words.”
Her family kindly allowed the medical center to film the Honor Walk, not only to tell Gwen’s story, but to encourage others to follow Gwen’s lead and register as organ donors.
The Lives She Saved
That evening, as Gwen’s life ended, others began again.
Gwen’s heart saved the life of a 61-year-old man. Her lungs were transplanted into a 31-year-old man. A 44-year-old man received Gwen’s liver, while both of Gwen’s kidneys were recovered and saved the lives of a 58-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man—both of whom had waited more than 10 years on dialysis for this life saving transplant.
Through her selfless act, Gwen saved the lives of five individuals in Southern California and improved the lives of many more through tissue donation.
To follow Gwen’s lead and become an organ and tissue donor, click here.
We invite you to view and share Gwen’s Honor Walk video.