From Spokane to Bellevue to Billings to Missoula, we’ve been making our rounds to celebrate donor families and their loved ones who made life and sight possible for others through organ, eye and tissue donation.
We look forward to also celebrating soon with families in Anchorage, Alaska, but here’s a special glimpse of our summer with donation communities in both Montana and Washington.
Al Bass suffered from liver disease for nearly a decade — he couldn’t work, provide for his family or recall simple things. In July of 2018, Al was airlifted to Harborview after passing out on the side of the freeway from trying to change a flat tire. He had hours to live. It was the evening of July 26, 2018, that Spokane man Gregg Sutton, only 35, tragically passed away in a motorcycle accident. Gregg was a registered organ donor and his liver saved Al’s life. Al, who now shares a beautiful friendship with his donor’s mother, shared his story of gratitude for the second chance he’s been given because of organ donation.
Reece Chambers was a healthy 42-year-old firefighter and father of four when he found himself hospitalized due to heart failure. At this time, another 42-year-old father named Kevin Irby of Yakima tragically died from respiratory failure. Kevin’s family donated his organs, saving four people, including Reece, who received Kevin’s heart of gold. Reece recovered and became the first firefighter in Washington state to return to duty following a heart transplant.
Reece and his donor’s family shared their thoughts with local news FOX13 at the Donation Celebration. See it here.
Deanna Wittak’s son Jake was born with Biliary Atresia, a rare liver disease that prevents the bile ducts in the liver from developing, which is fatal without surgery or liver transplant. Deanna was told that 2-month-old Jake would need a liver transplant before his first birthday. The day that Deanna and Jake checked into the hospital is the day the World Trade Center fell. The world felt like a terrible place. But after a month of living in the hospital, and at 12:30 a.m. on the morning of Deanna’s birthday, she received a call … a liver was available for Jake!
Today Jake is a healthy 22-year-old man who loves four-wheeling, hiking and reading. Jake and his family are thankful to his donor hero, Michael Arey, who passed away at the age of 17, and Michael’s mother who chose to save others by donating his organs.
John and Rebecca Mulholland, the parents to 18-year-old Garrett Mulholland, traveled from Fairbanks, Alaska, to attend our Missoula Donation Celebration and to meet the recipient of their son’s lungs, Mark Delorme. Mark was the recipient speaker at the event. Watch their impactful interviews.
“I see the impact. I’ve been blessed to talk to three different people out of the five that he saved, and I know that they’ve got families that love them,” Rebecca shared. “I wasn’t going to keep him but all these people got to keep their person and it just does my heart so good that my son did that.”
Across two states and four events, hundreds of donor family members and transplant recipients connected over a shared meal and inspiring stories to celebrate the remarkable legacies of their loved ones and donor heroes.
Do you want a reminder for next year’s Donation Celebrations? Email FamilyAftercare@lcnw.org to get on the invite list!