CHRISTUS Spohn Corpus Christi-Shoreline staff, from left, Dr. Morgan Campbell, Laura Garcia, Ammie Dominguez and Silvia Galvan cut ribbon for new Wall of Heroes outside of the third floor intensive care unit at the Pavilion.
Paul Iverson, CHRISTUS Spohn Health Systems
Registered nurses Isaac Garcia, Beverly Howell and Silvia Galvan pin green ribbon on Susie Duncan, whose mother was an organ donor and had her picture on the Wall of Heroes. The green ribbon has come to symbolize awareness regarding organ and tissue donation.
Paul Iverson, CHRISTUS Spohn Health Systems
Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi–Shoreline recently unveiled a “Wall of Heroes” on the third and fourth floors of its Heart Institute and Pavilion to honor the hospital’s patients who saved lives through organ donations.
The hospital is the latest in the CHRISTUS Spohn Health System to unveil a “Wall of Heroes” display. The exhibit is located outside the third and fourth floor ICU units and features photographs of donors surrounded by a special poem about organ donations written by Pennie Mathewson, a CHRISTUS Spohn registered nurse. In December 2011, CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial unveiled its own “Wall of Heroes.”
The first such commemorative hospital wall was dedicated in El Paso in 2008 after the mother of a donor presented the hospital with a picture of her 22 year-old daughter. Soon, there was a second photo on the wall. Then there was a third. Each of these patients’ relatives decided to donate their organs after their deaths.
While most Catholic Church leaders are aware of the Church’s stand on the issue of organ and tissue donation, knowledge of the Church’s teaching on organ and tissue donation is often not fully familiar to the faithful in the pews, said Robert Grigsby, Chair, Commission on Certification, APC Director of Pastoral Care at Trinity Mother Frances Health System in Tyler, Texas.
Father Frank Martinez, STL who manages the Spiritual Care office at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Shoreline said many people struggle with the idea of giving up any body parts, believing that the body must remain intact. People do not like thinking about it.
“In the beatific vision, we will be changed to how God wants us. We’ll be angelic,” Father Martinez said.
In his 1991 address to participants of the First International Congress of the Society for Organ Sharing, Blessed John Paul II said, “For Christians, Jesus’ offering of himself is the essential point of reference and inspiration of the love underlying the willingness to donate an organ, which is a manifestation of generous solidarity, all the more eloquent in a society which has become excessively utilitarian and less sensitive to unselfish giving.”
Once people hear about turning a tragedy into life, they get a different perspective. The spiritual care team at the hospital does not get involved in the decision of a family to donate organs unless they are asked, Father Martinez said, but “once they take the lead, we journey with them.” The Church encourages the gift of life, he said.
“Catholic beliefs about donation are rooted in a deep respect for the sanctity of the human life—all human life, from conception to natural death. As one approaches the end of life, an individual may clearly demonstrate respect of human life by choosing to donate organs or tissues for transplant or research,” Grigsby said.
The “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops directs Catholic health care institutions to encourage and provide the means for those who wish to donate their organs and bodily tissue, for ethically legitimate purposes, so that they may be used for donation and research after death.
The most common example would be patients who have been declared medically dead that had registered as a donor, or their family or surrogate decision-maker gives permission for organ or tissue transplantation or ethical research, said Brian Smith, Vice President of Mission Integration for CHRISTUS Spohn Health System.
“It should be noted that adult stem cell research would fall into this category of ethically legitimate,” Smith said
The use of tissue or organs from an infant may be permitted after death has been determined and with the informed consent of the parents or guardians, but under no circumstances will the Church permit the use of human tissue obtained by direct abortions, even for research and therapeutic procedures. That is why embryonic stem cell research is not morally permissible, Smith said.
Under Catholic teaching, the organs should not be removed until it is medically determined the patient has died. In order to prevent any conflict of interest, the physician who determines death should not be a member of the transplant team.
The Church permits the transplantation of organs from living donors when such a donation does not sacrifice or seriously impair any essential bodily function and the anticipated benefit to the recipient is proportionate to the harm done to the donor, Smith said.
One such example would be a person donating a kidney to another individual. “The donor has two kidneys and the essential body function would continue with the proportionate benefit for the recipient of the kidney outweighing the potential harm to the donor,” Smith said.
A spokesman for Southwest Transplant Alliance, the local organ donation agency, said that following the initial wall’s dedication in El Paso, every family in that hospital in a position to donate a loved one’s organs did so.
The photos on the “Wall of Heroes” comfort families in crisis, and also help them choose organ donation for their loved ones, increasing donations and increasing the number of organs available for transplant.
“Organ recipients have such hope and anticipation,” Father Martinez said.
At times, however, they feel guilty that someone had to die for them to receive an organ. “They shouldn’t feel guilty. It’s unnecessary. The donor family is usually happy because they feel connected spiritually and physically with their loved one.”
CHRISTUS Spohn hospitals and Southwest Transplant Alliance hope that the photos of local organ donors on the walls of hospitals will do the same for other families. More than 100,000 people in the United States and more than 10,000 people in Texas await life-saving organ transplants at any one time.
While more than 30,000 people do receive needed transplants each year, an average of 18 people die each day before the organs they needed became available. One donor can impact up to 50 lives with donation of heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestine, corneas, skin, bone, ligaments and tendons.
Southwest Transplant Alliance and CHRISTUS Spohn also hope that these walls of heroes will inspire Corpus Christi and area residents to register as organ donors. Texans can officially register their decision to donate online at www.donatelifetexas.org or when renewing a driver’s license through the Texas Department of Public Safety or car tags through the local department of motor vehicles.
A personal story of LOVE and LIFE…“In light of the Church’s overall teaching on organ and tissue donation by adults, the Church encourages individuals to reflect on the issue and make their wishes known so that at the time of death those wishes can be honored,” Smith said.
An organ donation does not take away the pain and sorrow, but “everyone is looking for a miracle to come from a tragedy,” Father Martinez said.
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