Forget About Life-Enhancing; Tissue Donation Is Lifesaving

“Forget about life enhancing, tissue donation is lifesaving,” were the remarkable words from our president and CEO, Kevin Myer, during the first staff meeting of 2016 in reference to the phenomenal achievement of the tissue department: 1,014 tissue donors in 2015. 

To embrace and truly understand this significant milestone, we asked Brian Roe – our senior managing director, tissue services, and Communication Center Operations – to answer a few questions: 

How does tissue donation save lives?  
Tissue donation saves lives in a myriad of ways. The gift of skin is able to serve as a temporary wound dressing for burn victims until the person’s own skin can heal. It takes approximately 40 sq. ft. to heal a severe burn victim and about 10 recovered tissue donors to provide this amount of skin. Without this critical gift, burn victims cannot fight off infection and would not survive. Heart valves are definitely lifesaving gifts. In particular, in pediatric cases where heart anomalies are present, the patient cannot survive without these precious valves. Finally, musculoskeletal tissue is able to save lives by restoring people back to health.

Do you know someone who is a tissue recipient?  
Absolutely, I know many people and have many friends and family that are recipients of tissue. My mother is the recipient of donated tissue for a dental procedure. One of my very close friends received a heart valve replacement, and due to this lifesaving gift, she was then able to have twins – which never before would have been possible.

Do you know the story of a tissue donor family that has had an impact on you? 
I have had the pleasure and honor of working in organ and tissue donation for more than 15 years. I was always a firm believer in the donation process, but my beliefs and commitment to the industry were truly reaffirmed in 2009 when my father, Dale Evans Roe, unexpectedly passed away on February 22. All of a sudden, I went from working in the donation field to becoming part of a family faced with making the decision of giving life to others and the one granting consent. We made the decision to donate, as my father had always talked about how proud and fascinated he was of my career and that he hoped he could help others when his time came. As he always was during his life, my father was a hero. He was able to help more than 50 people through his gift of skin, tissue, bones and corneas. This experience greatly enhanced my beliefs and commitment to the donation process as well as increased my abilities, understanding and competencies as a donation professional. Having been on the other side of the coin, I am able to understand, sympathize and connect with families on a much deeper level, and I am able to share the wonderful joy that my family and I feel in knowing that my father was able to help so many through his selfless gifts.

Is there a specific tissue that is donated the most? 
During the authorization process, families are given the options to donate several different types of tissue, including eyes. Most often, when they hear the clinical applications and benefits, they agree to most – especially since tissue donation does not interfere with planned funeral arrangements.

We thank our donor tissue families who made the decision to say “yes,” and we are proud of our tissue team that makes this lifesaving mission possible. We also thank Brian for sharing such a touching and personal story.

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