Organ Donation: A Tribute to a Hero

I didn’t want to write this blog. I am sad, angry, tired, confused, and not in the mood to write. I wanted to ask someone to cover for me. But I have a story to tell, and it’s an important story.

Sarah and John dancing

This week, my brother and sister-in-law lost one of their best friends. Her name is Sarah, and she suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest on Friday. Their grief is unknowable, unmanageable, and raw. I knew Sarah, having met her many times. I laughed with her, danced with her, rocked out to my brother’s band with her, and watched her be a best friend to my little brother.

Sarah has a family and group of friends that are in shock at her passing. Words do not express the feelings of grief.

But because of Sarah, on Wednesday, something miraculous happened for someone else. The parents of a 12-year-old boy were told that their child will be saved by Sarah’s kidney. The family of 14-year-old girl got the news that she would receive the other one. Her heart will be going to a 59-year-old woman; her pancreas will be going to a 45-year old woman, and her liver will be going to a 45-year old woman.

In all, Sarah’s organs and tissues will affect the lives of over 50 families.

In researching this blog, I found some interesting facts on the Mayo Clinic website.

  • More than 101,000 people are waiting today for transplant surgeries, according to the official U.S. government Web site for organ and tissue donation.
  • The waiting list for transplants grows by approximately 300 people each month.
  • Each day, approximately 77 people receive an organ transplant.
  • However, 19 people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs.
  • One-third of consenting donors never realize their wish to donate because family members subsequently refuse permission — in many cases simply because they are unaware of their loved one’s preference.

Sarah’s family knew that she wanted to donate her organs. While the deep sadness and loss and grief will envelop those who love Sarah for a long time, knowing that she is helping others by giving of herself provides pockets of peace.

While many people find it difficult or uncomfortable to talk about death, I really hope reading Sarah’s story will give you an outlet to let your family know your feelings about organ donation. To those families who received the gift of our friend Sarah, you now have part of a strong, plucky, caring, passionate, loving person with you.  Thank you, Sarah. You will be missed by more people than you ever knew.

For more information about organ donation:

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Katie Hill

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  1. Hi Katie,

    Thank you for sharing this story, painful as it was to lose your family’s friend. I have had my orange “Organ Donor” sticker on my driver’s license for over a decade now and am proud to do so. Your story serves as a great reminder to me and others to communicate our wishes to family members.


  2. Wonderful post, Katie — thank you for writing it. I believe so strongly in organ donation, too. My condolences for the loss of Sarah, but her and her family’s gift of her organs is certainly reason for celebration and sounds like a wonderful tribute to her life and spirit.

  3. Katie,

    Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Sarah. I’m Sarah’s mom. People have been telling us what a difficult and courageous decision we made in consenting to donate Sarah’s organs. I have to let you know that it was never our decision to make. On the day that Sarah got her driver’s license, she immediately affixed the orange organ donor sticker to that license. Lewis (her dad) and I have always been listed as organ donors and she was so proud to be able to join that club.

    We had no decisions to make; we were merely following Sarah’s wishes. If you aren’t already listed as a potential organ donor, please at least think about it. If you are already listed, please let as many people as possible know about it. It would make a bad situation even worse if a potential organ was lost due to the fact that no one knew of the donor’s intent.

    On a personal note Katie, I absolutely love your brother! He and Jessie were with us day and night at the hospital and helped to contribute to the beautiful ceremony we had around her bed to express our thankfulness for the gift of Sarah.

  4. Katie,

    Thank you for this wonderful story. Sarah is indeed a hero to so many for, what was to her, a natural thing to do.

    And thank you, on a day when it didn’t feel good to do it, you wrote.


  5. Katie

    what a lovely tribute to Sarah. i’m lewis’s sister in england
    and yes to give the gift of life to other people certainly makes Sarah a hero.


  6. Katie, this is powerfully written. I’m John’s colleague at the University and have watched his grief. You tell an important story, one I’m sharing with my (adult) children among many others. Thank you.

  7. Katie-
    Very well put. Thanks for taking the time to do this. Sarah dated my brother, Ryan, for the last few years and was an amazing woman. Becuase of her generosity and story- I have encouraged many people to consider organ donation more seriously. I will pass along your website in the hopes that it may ignite a more powerful fire of compassion in people- a fire sarah had. _holly whitman-essler

  8. This is an interesting article/ story. Recently in Sri Lanka, I heard a news that said many innocent people are subject to forced or unintentional organ exploitations for selling in outside the country.
    And I also heard that in India, certain organs are sold by the owner intentionally.
    Meanwhile, Sri Lanka tops in donations of organs alive (kidneys)


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