Providence Saint Joseph, Providence Holy Cross and Providence Tarzana Medical Centers in the San Fernando Valley work with the nonprofit One Legacy to procure hearts, livers, kidneys and tissues from mortally ill or injured patients whose heartbroken families want to help others even as the cope with their own grief.
The three medical centers are joining this month in observing April as National Donate Life Month, a time to honor organ donors and their families.
At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center will raise its One Legacy flag in a ceremony in front of the hospital in an effort to increase awareness of organ donations and to thank families who have ensured life for others.
“We want to pay tribute to our patients who have passed away but through their organ donations helped save others. And we want to honor their families,” said Kathe Rich, chairwoman of the Committee for Organ Donations at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.
The gift of organ donations was spotlighted last month in Oakland in the aftermath of one the worst tragedies in the state’s law enforcement history – the shooting deaths of four police officers. In their sorrow, the family of Oakland Officer John Hege, one of four colleagues gunned down March 21, donated the slain officer’s heart, liver and kidneys to save the lives of four men they didn’t know.
The month-long observance is to honor families who, like the Heges, have agreed in their worst moments to donate the organs of loved ones who died unexpectedly. Here in the Valley, Providence Medical Centers have played a key role in obtaining counseling for family members regarding organ donation.
“It isn’t easy to ask, but if you have the mindset that you are empowering families in their darkest moment with an opportunity to make a hero of their loved one, you can work together to save lives,” said Carla Hentz of One Legacy.
One Legacy, a nonprofit, federally designated organ and tissue recovery organization, works with Providence to counsel families and procure organ donations.
More than 101,000 people are waiting for a transplant around the nation. More than 6,000 people on that list die every year.
“Saving lives through organ donation is definitely in keeping with the Mission of Providence, to care for the poor and vulnerable. Individuals on a waiting list for organs are definitely among the vulnerable in our community. Our partnership with One Legacy reaches out to these individuals,” said Shawn Kiley, director of the Spiritual Care Department at Providence Tarzana.
At the same time, the process helps family members heal, knowing their loved ones helped give another the gift of life, he said.
Organ donations increased 35 percent since 2000 in the five Southern California counties served by One Legacy, and Providence medical center efforts to procure organs mirror those gains.
At Providence Saint Joseph, the neuroscience department is leading the way in educating physicians in the process.
At Providence Holy Cross, physicians in the trauma center have been instrumental in identifying victims who are potential donors and notifying One Legacy to initiate the process.
And at Providence Tarzana, acquired in September by Providence Health & Services, has begun expanding its program.