Giving life in times of grief
Medical center honors organ donors and their families in solemn dedication.
By Christopher CadelagoMEDIA DISTRICT — It was a picturesque moment, their motorcycles navigating the winding turns of La Tuna Canyon Road, when tragedy struck the King family.
“It was beautiful, scenic coming down the hills. But they ended up in quite a deadly corner,” said Amber Presnall, 30, whose 24-year-old sister died last October after a drunk driver ran a stop sign and slammed into a motorcycle being driven by their father. “My sister Katie went through eight hours of surgery. She held on for all that time because she was so strong.”
Their father sustained serious brain injuries and hasn’t been the same since, family members said.
But the hardest goodbye, after dozens of family members gathered at the hospital, came as doctors informed them that Katie King would have to be whisked away so her organs could be donated.
“Of course we were so proud of her even in that moment,” Presnall said, recalling the bright-eyed young woman who worked full time with special needs children and attended Cal State Northridge for her teaching credentials. “We all had lost so much. Still, even in that moment, we were so proud of her.
“She chose that life; to be someone who served others. It was very fitting.”
Dozens of organ and tissue donors and their families were recognized at a solemn rose dedication Tuesday evening at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. The event was hosted by Providence Health & Services and OneLegacy, the organ and tissue recovery organization serving the Greater Los Angeles area.
There, the families signed small vials that will hold roses aboard the Donate Life float in the 2010 Tournament of Roses Parade. Grateful organ recipients looked on as 20-year-old Keile Jones remembered her father, Kevin, who died a year ago of a stroke.
Then 19 and pregnant, Jones made all the arrangements, including the final decision to count her father in as one of 82 million Americans who have said “yes” to saving lives by enrolling with state organ and tissue donor registries.
Organizers, such as Christina Courtney, special events coordinator at OneLegacy and a donor family member, maintained that the need is still great. About 19 people die each day awaiting life-saving organ transplants, and just one organ and tissue donor could save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of up to 50 others, organizers said.
Tom Mone, chief executive of OneLegacy, said the decision to carry through a donor’s wishes only expounds the pain of losing a loved one because it comes when the anger, heartache and suffering are often at their freshest. He thanked those who made it possible to “allow others to live.”
Although Jones does not know who received her father’s organ, she’s open to finding out.
“I wouldn’t have been before,” she said. “But now I would like to know.”