There was great and solemn appreciation for what was missing — and what continues — for 13 families visiting Mercy St. Vincent Hospital during a recent ceremony for organ donors.
They missed loved ones who had been patients at the hospital and have died. But they appreciated what goes on — not just the loved one’s memory, but the organs that became transplants for patients needing them or the body tissue used to make other people’s lives better.
Those 13 people are among 47 who were re-membered Sunday as donors at the 13th annual Guy Smith Bridge of Life Memorial Donor Recognition and Appreciation. The hospital, Life Connection of Ohio, and Community Tissue Services were hosts of the event.
The chaplains of the hospital’s pastoral care department gave the ceremony a religious structure with readings, prayers, and a blessing. Mr. Smith’s
parents, Otto and Rose Smith, and his teenage niece Morgan Littin spoke about his life and the continuing work of the bridge the family began in his memory.
The bridge is not a physical structure, but is instead an educational and support system for families, a span in the process of donating and receiving organs and tissue. Morgan shared that her family now knows the process from both the donor and recipient sides because she has uncles who received organ donations.
Adult tissue recipient Bruce Joseph and 10-year-old liver recipient Allison Herr and her mother, Jenny Herr, said they have been blessed by others’ donations.
The mother and grandmother of Careta Rashon Grace, 31, were candle lighters. After the ceremony, Careta’s grandmother, Carolyn Grace-Howe, said, “It’s a good feeling to know that [Careta] made a responsible decision.... I thought I was finished crying, but the tears came all over again [in the ceremony]."
The family was told that Careta's donation helped two people, "so that made both our hearts feel good," Mrs. Grace-Howe said about herself and Careta’s mother, Sharhonda Grace.
Mary Flores, her daughter, son, and daughter-in-law came to the service to remember Albert A. Flores.
"It sure stirs up feelings but it's nice to know that he's remembered," Mrs. Flores, Albert's wife, said.
Albert was listed as a donor on his driver's license, and the family supported his wishes based on family experience because his brother received a liver transplant in 1994, Mrs. Flores said.
She said that because Albert died at home, his organs could not be donated, "but they were able to use his tissue and we knew that he would want to do that. He was a schoolteacher and he was always wanting to give and to teach."
Tissue recipient Mr. Joseph spoke about what it means to have rebuilt knee ligament from donor tissue, and how his 9-year-old son can root for him as Mr. Joseph plays sports.
Mrs. Herr spoke for Allison, but Allison added at the end that she received gold and silver medals at the 2012 Transplant Games of America in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Guy Smith, 34 when he died in 1997, was a chef who worked on private yachts and he was a diving instructor. He became an organ donor after a traffic accident in Florida.
"I firmly believe in [organ and tissue donation]," his mother, Rose Smith, said after the recognition ceremony. "I didn't at first, when my son died." Her two other children told her that Guy wanted to be a donor. "He believed in it." So she supported Guy's wish.
Mrs. Smith said that notifying patients that a donation was available, by calls made while Guy was in an induced coma, "was such a beautiful process. I sat there in the room when [donation and medical officials] called the different recipients and their doctors. It was just mind-boggling how much it dovetails with all the different processes of the hospital."