Former Vice President Dick Cheney recently made news when he received a heart transplant. The heart came from an anonymous donor. Together, this donor, his or her family and Dick Cheney put a public face on one of the most charitable gift anyone can possibly give to others—organ donation.
Through Lee Memorial Health System’s partnership with LifeLink® of Florida—an independent non-profit organ and tissue recovery organization—we do our part to help facilitate this lifesaving process. Nurses and staff on our surgical intensive care unit at Lee Memorial Hospital and the regional Trauma Center work hard to comfort and care for families faced with the difficult decision whether to donate their loved ones’ organs.
“We care for a lot of trauma patients who were just fine and healthy days earlier,” explains bedside nurse and organ donation champion, Trish Bremer, RN. “It is difficult to see the families have to decide what to do—there is nothing easy about it. We are there to provide support and care for the families.”
Our nurses do not initiate conversations about organ donation.
“LifeLink representatives are called if or when a patient is progressing toward brain death,” says Pat Shrader, intensive care unit nursing director. “Even if a patient is already on the donor registry list, LifeLink talks to the family because it is important that the family is always supported, cared for and part of their loved ones’ care. If a patient is not a registered organ donor, then our LifeLink representative talks to the family about considering the gift of organ donation.”
Pat says that individuals and families react in different ways when they decide to donate their loved ones’ organs. “Some feel peace because this amazing gift can help so many others—one organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and help 50 others,” she says. “Some find it more difficult because they are looking at their loved one who, days earlier, was healthy and now they have to let them go. It is an emotional experience for everyone involved, including the staff.”
Trish shares that the SICU at Lee Memorial Hospital has approximately 25 organ donors a year and, as much as possible, the organs stay in our community to help our neighbors.
“I am passionate about organ donation because I see the positive outcome,” Trish says. “The phone call to someone awaiting an organ means the world to that person and their family. Losing a loved one is never easy, but it is a great gift to help others.”
Pat adds, “I truly feel it is my privilege to enter people’s lives at such a crucial juncture. While it is incredibly sad, I get to witness the generosity of the human spirit in the face of such devastating loss.”
According to LifeLink, approximately 113,265 Americans currently are on the transplant waiting list, and another name is added to that list every 11 minutes. If you or someone you know are interested in becoming an organ donor, visit www.donatelifeflorida.org to learn more and to join the registry.
Thank you to the dedicated teams in our intensive care and trauma units. They face difficult and very sad situations with compassion, kindness and care, which they show our patients and families every day and night. They truly are caring people, caring for people.
President, Lee Memorial Health System