06:01 PM

How to be a hero

Hospital employees save lives every single day. Some individuals are more directly involved in patient care and others are a bit more removed. No matter the job description, it takes all the worker bees – even the ones behind the scenes – to make Kalispell Regional Healthcare run smoothly. And for this, every KRH employee deserves recognition and is considered a hero.

But you don’t have to be a doctor or nurse or work at a hospital to be a hero and save lives. By becoming an organ or tissue donor, you are offering a valuable gift. And not just one person, but you offer life and hope to a recipient’s entire network: their parents, siblings, children, friends, colleagues and more.

Recently, at Kalispell Regional Healthcare, a patient was facing end of life and decided to be an organ donor. This patient was connected with LifeCenter Northwest, a federally-designated nonprofit organization that matches donors with patients in need throughout Alaska, Montana, north Idaho and Washington. While losing a patient, family member or close friend is always heartbreaking, for some the loss may be softened by knowing the gift of life was offered to others in the form of organ or tissue donation.

The KRH patient donated kidneys, the liver and heart to others facing life-threatening medical situations. Four other lives (and families) were saved due to the benevolent decision of one individual. That is a hero, indeed!

“Without the selfless act of organ donation, my family would be missing a huge figure; our father,” explains Sammi Johnson of Kalispell.

Her father’s liver was failing over time due to an auto immune disease. A new liver was his only hope for survival.

“The entire process was remarkable and we’ve just passed the one-year mark since his transplant,” Sammi recounts. “I know firsthand how vital organ donation is for families waiting for a perfect match, just like ours.” 

In addition to the organ donation, tissue was also recovered to save and enhance other lives. Body tissues including bone, tendons/ligaments, veins and nerves are also used to help others. Bone will help patients in need of bone fusion or grafting surgeries, trauma reconstruction and many other needs. Tendons and ligaments help patients suffering from severe joint injuries. In most cases, nerve tissue donations are vital for patients that have endured trauma to the limbs and often helps to avoid amputation. Veins and arteries are used with patients undergoing procedures such as a coronary artery bypass graft. In all, one person significantly improved the lives of more than 100 people from tissue donations. One selfless choice gave others a better quality of life.

In June 2018, LifeCenter Northwest presented both North Valley Hospital and The HealthCenter with the 2017 Tissue Donation Achievement Award. These facilities are two of only of six hospitals in the regional service area to receive this award which recognizes hospitals that provide excellent care and logistics related to timely calls, community education, and outreach for tissue donation. More specifically, staff in the respective patient care units and operating rooms deserve this honor. These are the individuals that have the tough conversations and help arrange the particulars related to patients’ wishes for organ and tissue donation.

Another noteworthy accomplishment announced recently by LifeCenter Northwest is a record-breaking regional donation month during May 2018: 101 organs from 31 generous donors were provided to those in need.

“This accomplishment is truly a testament to our mission of working together to serve the communities in our region and save more lives,” said Kevin O’Connor, President and CEO of LifeCenter Northwest. “Successes like this wouldn’t be possible without the kindness of our donors and their families, and the tireless work of donor hospital and transplant center staff. We have a profound appreciation for all those who partner with us in this life-saving work.”

You can be a hero too! Become an organ and tissue donor. Here’s how. 

  1. Make the decision to donate.
  2. Register. You can do this two ways: sign up online at this link (organdonor.gov) or in-person at your local motor vehicle department. All you need is some identification information and your driver’s license or photo ID number.
  3. Be sure to tell your family members and friends so they can support your wishes. You can also do this with advance directives.