Suze Diaz —Organ donation gives people a second chance at life. On average, one person dies nearly every hour waiting for an organ transplant. A single organ donor can save as many as eight lives. When a person makes the decision to become an organ donor, the gifts that will be given on their behalf are priceless. For the family of the organ donor, it is a sacrifice that is hard to face when that time comes.
Tri-City Medical Center, a partner with Donate Life California, is the first hospital in San Diego County to honor organ donors and their surviving family with The Honor Walk. Since 2018, The Honor Walk is a dignified way of acknowledging the life and generosity of the donor and provides the extra emotional support for the donor’s surviving family. Merebeth Richins, Tri-City Medical Center’s Donate Life coordinator and Director for ICU, Telemetry and Pulmonary Service, suggested the idea of The Honor Walk after learning about other walks available at other hospitals. When an organ donor has passed, an ICU nurse lets the surviving family know of The Honor Walk and the surviving family has the choice to decide if they would like to participate. All available hospital staff stands in respectful silence as they line the hospital hallway between the donor’s ICU rooms to the operating room. The response of the hospital employees to participate has been overwhelmingly positive and loving. The walks are not pre-planned and happen organically.
Other programs have been in effect to recognize organ donors and their families as well as raising awareness of the need for more local organ donors. Every April is considered “Donate Life Month”. To celebrate, Tri-City Medical Center hosts and invites all donor families to attend a flag-raising ceremony dedicated to all of the donor heroes from Tri-City. For “Blue and Green Day”, all employees are encouraged to wear either blue or green to bring awareness to the need of organ donors and encourage people to register as a donor. During the holidays, Tri-City’s Celebration Tree has ornaments from every donor family represented on its branches.
For the surviving family of an organ donor, the sadness of losing a loved one can be devastating. But through the help of The Honor Walk and the caring hospital staff at Tri-City Medical Center, their grieving process can receive comfort knowing that a part of their loved ones continue to live on and bring peace to the organ recipients and their families.
To learn more about becoming an organ donor, please visit both https://donatelifecalifornia.org/ and https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/about/donatelife/donatelife