Donor families, recipients honor organ donation during Donate Life events at Franciscan Health Dyer and Crown Point

Donor families, recipients honor organ donation during  Donate Life events at Franciscan Health Dyer and Crown Point

Top left: Dr. Daniel McCormick, president/CEO of Franciscan Health Crown Point, left, accepts the Vision Award from Michael Henderson, professional services coordinator for VisionFirst. The award recognizes Franciscan Health Crown Point for the nearly 150 corneal donors the hospital has had over the past five years.
Top right: Sister Marlene Shapley, Franciscan Health vice president of mission integration, speaks at the Corpus Christi Chapel at Franciscan Health Crown Point, her brother Donald, whose organs were donated after his sudden death from an aneurysm.
Bottom right: Quilts hanging at the Donor Remembrance Celebrations feature panels created by donor families to honor their loved ones.
Bottom left: Alice Jenkins, donation coordinator for Gift of Hope, talks about her agency’s work to coordinate organ and tissue donation during the Donate Life event at Franciscan Health Dyer.

Transplant recipients and family members of organ donors shared messages of loss and inspiration at Donate Life Month celebrations at Franciscan Health Dyer and Franciscan Health Crown Point.

The Donor Remembrance Celebrations were held in collaboration with Gift of Hope and VisionFirst at Franciscan Health Dyer on April 26 and at Franciscan Health Crown Point on April 29. Both events were accompanied by donor registration drives at each hospital.

“We have been given the greatest gift of all today,” Alice Jenkins, donation coordinator for Gift of Hope, said about the event speakers. “It isn’t easy to stand up here and share their loss, their grief and even to be able to share the gift that they received. And the fact that they have, and that they did – you all have made us better.”

Sister Marlene Shapley, Franciscan Health vice president of mission integration, spoke in both Dyer and Crown Point. She described the death of her brother Donald from an aneurysm as the worst of days and also the best of days. “Donald’s last act of kindness and generosity was to give of himself to help someone else. Perhaps his cornea could be used to help someone see a glorious sunrise, or the twinkle in the eye of a loved one, his skin to help a burn patient recover through grafting, his bones to help repair of long bone injury following an accident or birth defect,” she said.

Vickie Walker shared the heart-wrenching loss of her daughter, Nikki, who died from an accidental drowning when she was 18. Nikki had previously told her mother she wanted to be an organ donor. Knowing Nikki’s wishes convinced Walker that her daughter’s organs should help others live. Nikki’s heart, kidneys and lungs were donated and two of the recipients were direct donations to family friends who were matches. “I knew Nikki was destined for greatness, and would touch many lives in her lifetime, I just never knew it would be as an organ donor, and at a so very young age,” Walker said.

Kelly Asbell battled cystic fibrosis and lived in fear of not seeing her twin daughters grow up. After 25 years of antibiotic treatment, she became multi-resistant, meaning antibiotics would no longer be effective. She prepared herself, her daughters and her husband for her death. “Right as they’re telling me there’s nothing more they can do, I got the governor’s pardon. I went from death row to the best news ever,” she said. The news was that she would receive a double lung transplant.

“They sat me down and said, ‘Now that you’ve got these lungs, what do you want to do?’ The first thing that I said is ‘I want to live. I want to stop living from this day forward like I’m dying and I want to live like I’m living,’” Asbell said. For the past year, she’s done just that, from getting front-row seats at a Garth Brooks concert to waking up in her own bed for 362 days without a hospital stay.

Trevor Bradtke, a middle school teacher, was progressively losing his vision due to keratoconus, an eye disease in which the cornea begins to bulge into a cone-like shape. His vision kept getting worse, and he’s been unable to drive at night. Now his outlook has literally changed by receiving donated corneas. “Somebody helped me out. Somebody died, they gave me their eyes and now I have the rest of my life to give back,” he said.

Tiffany Fliszar-Rivera, health unit coordinator at Franciscan Health Munster, worked a year for Indiana Lions Eye Bank (now VisionFirst) retrieving cornea donations after she went through the experience of her father’s death and donation. Her father was able to donate his skin, some of which she later learned went to soldiers being treated for burns. “The importance and impact is not only for the people receiving, but the brave ones that have donated. We’ll never forget,” Fliszar Rivera said.

Mike Papineau spoke in Crown Point about his father’s kidney transplant. “The gift of hope we got was life changing. It gave us our father back,” Papineau said. His father went on to serve as a village trustee in Midlothian, Illinois, and did outreach for the secretary of state’s office at organ donation events. At one of these events, he had a chance meeting with the sister of his kidney donor. The families got to meet and became involved in each other’s lives, even attending weddings as Papineau’s father walked his two daughters down the aisle.

Michael Henderson, professional services coordinator for VisionFirst, presented Dr. Daniel McCormick, President/CEO of Franciscan Health Crown Point with their Vision Award, recognizing that over the past five years, Franciscan Health Crown Point has had nearly 150 corneal donors.

In 2018, Gift of Hope and their hospital partners had 461 organ donors and 3,000 tissue donors in their service area, covering 108 hospitals in Northwest Indiana and Illinois, according to Jenkins. Two quilts hanging at the events featured panels done by donor families to recognize their loved ones. “It’s a wonderful tapestry of the personality of the people behind these numbers,” Jenkins said.

About Gift of Hope
Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network is a not-for-profit organ procurement organization entrusted by the nation’s health care system with coordinating organ and tissue donation and providing donor family services and public education in Northwest Indiana and Illinois. It works with 180 hospitals and serves 12 million residents in its donation service area. Gift of Hope has coordinated donations that have saved the lives of more than 25,000 organ transplant recipients and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of tissue transplant recipients.

About VisionFirst
VisionFirst is committed to the restoration of sight through its core values of quality, teamwork, innovation, passion and integrity. Founded in 1959 by the Lions of Indiana, the organization has been recovering, processing, evaluating and providing sight-saving corneas for those in need. VisionFirst provides a full range of transplant services as well as research tissue and training services for medical professionals in the industry. VisionFirst’s highly-skilled, knowledgeable staff works to provide the highest-quality eye tissue to surgeons across the country.

About Franciscan Alliance
The Franciscan Alliance healthcare ministry began in Lafayette, Ind., in 1875. Today, Franciscan Alliance is one of the largest Catholic health care systems in the Midwest with 12 hospital campuses, approximately 18,000 employees and a number of nationally recognized Centers of Health Care Excellence. Hospitals include: Franciscan Health Carmel; Franciscan Health Crawfordsville; Franciscan Health Crown Point; Franciscan Health Dyer; Franciscan Health Hammond; Franciscan Health Indianapolis; Franciscan Health Lafayette; Franciscan Health Michigan City; Francis-can Health Mooresville; Franciscan Health Munster; Franciscan Health Olympia Fields (IL); and Franciscan Health Rensselaer.