“Creating a lasting tribute to those who have given hope and new life through donation has been a dream of UK and KODA for many years,” said Donna Slone, client services coordinator for KODA at UK HealthCare. “There have been nearly 1,000 donors at UK since transplantation began here in 1964. Some have chosen to remain anonymous, but we hope other families of UK donors that we did not reach this year will see the Gift of Life wall and allow us to add those names in the future.”
The names of 240 individuals who provided the gift of life through organ and tissue donation were read aloud during the official ceremony and unveiled on the Gift of Life wall, located inside Pavilion A adjacent to the Gill Heart Institute.
More than 500 donor family members and guests attended the ceremony to honor their loved ones. Michelle Landers, whose 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, became an organ donor in 2008, was involved in the memorial planning and shared her daughter's story as a featured speaker.
“I am very honored to have been a part of the planning committee for the donor memorial wall and to have been asked to share Hannah’s story," Landers said. "Our family continues to be very proud of her decision to be an organ donor, and we are so grateful that UK and KODA have chosen to publicly honor her and the many other organ and tissue donors in such a beautiful way.”
The ceremony featured a musical performance by liver recipient Katie Raybould as well as remarks from heart recipient Zack Poe, UK HealthCare's Chief Nursing Officer Colleen Swartz and Dr. Andrew Bernard, UK's director of trauma and acute care surgery and the chair of the Donation and Transplantation Action Council, who emphasized the importance of organ donation in Kentucky.
“Organ and tissue donation can save and improve lives in our community, around Kentucky and across the nation,” Bernard said. “Joining the donor registry gives hope to those in need of organ and tissue transplants, while leaving a legacy of generosity for the donor and his or her family.”
Every year, an estimated 6,000 people die while waiting for an organ transplant. More than 116,000 Americans are currently waiting for donated organs, including 880 people in Kentucky. Their names are on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list. The level of necessity, blood type, and size are among several criteria that determine who can receive a donated organ. One individual donor can provide organs and tissue for nearly 50 people in need.
After her son Marc Schuster's untimely death in 1993, Janet Mart and her family opted to have his organs donated, and eight patients received the gift of life from his donation. As a result, Mart became passionate about raising awareness for organ donation, and she now works as a KODA Family Support Liaison where she counsels families who are going through experiences similar to hers.
This year, Marc's name is the earliest one celebrated on the wall. For Mart, the memorial provides another way for donors like her son to be honored for their sacrifices.
"He deserves this recognition and it helps ensure that he will never be forgotten," Mart said. "What happened to him was no fault of his own, as is the case with most of our donors."
Mart, who has been with KODA full-time for 16 years, says that her son's tragedy has given her life new purpose.
"The birth of your child often defines who you are," Mart said. "And in my case, the death of my child continues to define who I am and what I do."
Although hospitals are obligated by law to identify potential donors and inform families of their right to donate, anyone can sign up to become an organ donor by joining the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry. The registry is a safe and secure electronic database where a person’s wishes regarding donation will be carried out as requested.
To join the registry, visit www.donatelifeky.org or sign up when you renew your driver’s license. The donor registry enables family members to know that you chose to save and enhance lives through donation. Kentucky’s “First Person Consent” laws mean that the wishes of an individual on the registry will be carried out as requested.
If your loved one was an organ donor at UK Chandler Hospital and you would like to have him or her honored on the Gift of Life wall in the future, contact Donna Slone at (859) 323-7343 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MEDIA CONTACT: Allison Perry, (859) 323-2399 or email@example.com