Click on a photo to read the recipient's story:
|Irene Atencio||Kenneth Williams||Jason Ray||Kevin Blanchard||Kevin Morsching|
Irene Atencio and her twin sister Mia immigrated to Los Angeles from the Philippines in 1985. The sisters signed up to be organ and tissue donors at their local Department of Motor Vehicles when they got their driver’s licenses, and never thought about donation again.
In 2009, Mia developed headaches which were traced to a blood clot in her brain, possibly caused by an aneurism. During this time, Irene injured her right knee and was told she needed donated tissue to reconstruct her ACL. Then, after several unsuccessful surgeries, Mia died at age 42 and became a tissue donor.
Mia’s gift to her sister was a “directed donation,” where a deceased donor’s tissue is directed to another family member or close friend.
“I am thankful for my sister’s gift,” said Irene. “I encourage all people, and especially members of the Filipino community, to consider donation. My sister generously gave to others in life and in death.”
Tissue recipient Kenneth Williams (far left) suffered for nearly 20 years with debilitating back pain from an old weightlifting injury. The retired aircraft engineer battled degenerative disk disease in his back. “It was like someone had a chisel in my back and was constantly hitting it with a hammer,” said Kenneth, who lives in Southern California.
While Kenneth struggled with his disease, a family in North Carolina also struggled with the tragic loss of their beloved son. Jason Ray (above right) was the team mascot for the University of North Carolina’s basketball program who was struck and killed by a car while attending a New Jersey basketball tournament in March 2007. However, hope would come for both Kenneth and Jason’s family in the form of organ, eye and tissue donation.
Kenneth could only find relief through a surgical procedure on his back that required donated tissue—tissue that he received through Jason’s gift. "Jason's spirit lives on through people like me," stated the father of five and grandfather of six.
Now, simple tasks like driving, sitting or standing for more than 15 minutes at a time, traveling on an airplane, and taking walks on the beach with his wife are possible without pain for Kenneth. "I have my life back," said Kenneth. "My wife can tell you I became withdrawn due to my pain. Now she says I’m back to the way I used to be.”
Nineteen-year-old college student Kevin DeShawn Blanchard was shot in the head as he drove to pick up his girlfriend. This senseless murder put an end to Kevin's plans to seek a career in psychology or law enforcement.
Faced with this horrific event, Kevin's mother, Patricia, could have easily chosen anger and retaliation. Instead, she chose forgiveness and hope. She chose to donate Kevin’s tissues, knowing that this last gift could bring the promise of hope and healing to others in need of life-saving tissue transplantation.
"I want others to know that through tissue donation, Kevin is still making us proud," said his mother, Patricia. "I am so glad I chose donation. I have never regretted this choice for one minute, "said his mother, Patricia. Patricia Blanchard is an orthopedic nurse and knows first-hand how tissue donation can help others. She continues to treat young victims of gunshot wounds, and is saddened by this senseless violence.
A risk-taker and thrill-seeker, Kevin Morsching wasn’t happy unless he was giving one hundred percent. “He hit the ground running and never stopped,” explains Kim Morsching, Kevin’s mother. “It’s almost as if he knew his life was going to be short and he wanted to make the very most of his time here.”
His drive and athleticism was showcased on the baseball field as a relief pitcher for the Post 22 American Legion team in Rapid City, South Dakota and the South Dakota State University team in Brookings, South Dakota.
Kevin was fatally injured in a skateboarding accident shortly before the beginning of his junior year. Although Kevin’s accident was tragic, he answered the prayers of many people who were, at the same time, waiting for a second chance at life.
Kevin had made the decision to be an organ and tissue donor when he applied for his driver’s license and his generous decision was supported by his family. Kevin’s heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas saved the lives of six people. Kevin’s gift of tissue will be used in dozens of life-changing surgeries for years to come.
"Donation was our bright spot," said Kim. "You know all of the good things about your child, and this is their last good thing.”