Transplant memorials celebrate donors

One of the greatest gifts a person can give is the life-saving donation of an organ or tissue. This month, University of Chicago Medicine, alongside Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donation Network, unveiled two memorials celebrating organ and tissue donors, one commemorating adults and the other children.

On Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, a large group of donor families, recipients, and UChicago Medicine staff gathered for the unveiling at the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine. “The actual memories of our donors will live on through these very visible reminders for all of our staff, patients, and visitors,” said UChicago Medical Center President Sharon O’Keefe to the assembled crowd.

Among the speakers, which included Tracy Koogler, MD, and the wife of an organ donor, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White shared a story about his late sister having her life extended an additional 27 years by a kidney donation.

White reminded the audience that 6.5 million people are signed up for the Illinois donor program and that approximately 4,700 people in Illinois are on the organ donation waiting list. Each year, around 300 people pass away because an organ donation did not arrive in time. White urged those in attendance to sign up for the program if they hadn’t done so already.

Organ transplantation has a long history at UChicago Medicine, starting with its very origins. In the early 1900s, scientists performed the first heart transplant on a dog, ultimately earning a Nobel Prize. Other transplant breakthroughs that have occurred at UChicago Medicine include the first bone marrow transplant, the first successful living donor liver transplant, and the first successful heart-liver-kidney transplant.

The donor memorials will be updated annually with new donors to continue to celebrate the lives saved by their generosity. The memorials will move around the hospital campus, with the adult memorial rotating between all adult facilities and the children’s memorial staying at Comer Children’s Hospital.

Photo by Taylor Larue.