Tri-County Honors Organ, Tissue and Eye Donors and Recipients with Flag-Raising Ceremony

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Donate Life Flag-Raising Ceremony

The Donate Life Flag is being flown at Tri-County Health Care during the month of April to honor local organ and tissue donors, their families and recipients. The display is part of a national initiative, Flags Across America, designed to honor and celebrate the hundreds of thousands of donors and recipients whose lives have been affected by organ, eye and tissue donation. Locally, Tri-County Health Care partners with LifeSource, to support families at the end-of-life and offer the opportunity of organ and tissue donation.

To honor those local donor families and recipients, a flag-raising ceremony was held on April 5 at Tri-County Health Care. Special guests included Donna Grendahl, whose son was a heart transplant recipient. Also speaking was Barb Nelson-Agnew, Hospital liaison for LifeSource, spoke that a donation by one person can save and heal up to 60 lives through organ, eye and tissue donation.

Jim & Barb Swenson

 

Tri-County Chief Financial Officer Kim Aagard, who’s the mother of a donor, shared a poem written by heart recipient Jim Swenson, from Willmar, MN. He wrote it shortly after his transplant in 2004 to recognize donors and donor families for the selfless gift of donation.  As he shared, “It’s just my way of trying to put into words how I feel.”

 

 

The unexpected knock, the unexpected call.

The tired saddened doctor’s face seemed to say it all.

Everything had been done, your heart sank at the sound.

And now you finally knew, your loved one was down.

 

As you learned the unwanted truth, there was nothing more to do

Your emotions took flight to say, now how do we make it through.

Your loved one didn’t plan it, as you face this awful strife

But now you face the question, do you give the gift of life.

 

Though your sorrow cannot be measured, our thanks is great indeed.

For donors are the heroes we thought we’d never need.

And donors are the heroes we never got to know.

They’ve lost it all, but in that loss they gave life the greatest gift of all.

TCHC President/CEO Joel Beiswenger

“Today, 119,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list, and 22 of them will die today for lack of an organ. We encourage our community members to join with Tri-County to help save lives through a national campaign to encourage people to register to become organ donors,” said Joel Beiswenger, Tri-County Health Care President and CEO, who also spoke at the ceremony. Kim Aagard and Donna Grendahl, raised the flag at the conclusion of the program. Around 40 donor families, transplant recipients, friends and the public gathered for the presentation and flag raising.

Across the nation, thousands of Donate Life flags will be flown and displayed throughout the month of April – National Donate Life Month. In addition to this initiative, Tri-County Health Care offers donor families the option of flying the flag at the hospital, during their loved one’s donation event, in a show of support and to honor their loved one’s memory. If you are interested in learning more about organ and tissue donation, please visit: life-source.org.


Donate Life: Leaving a lasting legacy

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Kim Aagard

In July 2009 Tom and Kim Aagard received a sympathy letter in the mail from LifeSource, a non-profit organization focusing on organ, eye and tissue donation, with condolences on their son Tommy’s passing. Included in the letter were the details about the transplant recipients who received a second chance of life because of Tommy’s generous gift. In the list of recipients was a Minnesota man. “A 59-year-old man received the gift of Thomas’s heart. This recipient is married, lives in Minnesota and is a father,” the letter read.

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Stephanie Larson, a young mother of two, has worked at Tri-County Health Care since 2003. After having a cardiac arrest in October 2011, at the age of 32 she was able to recover and receive a new heart in September 2012. Because of her personal experience, she volunteers to raise awareness in the Wadena area about organ and tissue donation. She suggested a LifeSource exhibit at TCHC’s February Festival of Health. She asked her friend Bill Carlson, of Minnetonka, to help her with the booth. She had met Bill when she was staying in the hospital at the University of Minnesota ICU after her transplant. They hit it off immediately. Stephanie said, “He came in often to check in to give me support. He was a constant for me during my time and my transplant.” Bill had lain in the exact bed in Room 3503 back in 2009 as Stephanie did in 2012 – when he received his own heart transplant.

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Kim was working at the 2014 February Festival of Health and she approached the LifeSource booth. Kim spotted a sign that read “My Donor” with a photo of her son Tommy underneath. Looking back on that moment, Kim describes it as surreal. There, standing behind the table, was Bill.

Kim said, “I picked up the photo and looked at Bill and said, ‘This is a photo of my son Tommy.’” Bill recalled that he was so nervous that he didn’t know how to respond to Kim. “It was like all of a sudden you’re meeting a sister that you never had,” he said. Because of the impact of meeting Kim, Bill couldn’t finish working at the event and Stephanie stepped in for him.

He called his wife immediately and told her, “‘I just met Tommy’s mom.’ My wife could tell by my voice that I was very emotional about it, and she asked if I’d be able to drive back home to Minnetonka.”

Meanwhile, Kim had left the event to call her husband and tell him what had happened. She asked if Tom wanted to come to the event and meet Bill. At first Tom was unsure, and the two hung up. But less than 10 minutes later Kim’s phone rang and Tom said, “It’s meant to be. I’m on my way to meet you both.” For the next couple of hours, the three sat and talked.

Today, as Kim, Bill and Stephanie sit together reciting their fate-filled story filled with tears and smiles, Bill explains a saying they recite in his weekly support group. “‘Live your life everyday like your donor is watching. Treat this life with the utmost respect to the gift that was given to you by them.’ I will thank Tommy every day of my life.”

L-R: Bill, Kim and Stephanie

 

 

INFORMATION ON HOW TO BECOME AN ORGAN DONOR:
*This story was originally published in the March 2017 edition of Tri-County Health Care’s Healthy Times. To read this article, and the other articles, click here.

Tri-County Health Care recognized by US Department of Health and Human Services

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Tri-County Health Care is among a select group of hospitals and transplant centers nationwide recognized by the U.S.

Barb Nelson-Agnew from Life Source presenting award to Lois Miller, alongside Kathy Kleen (left) Chief Nursing Officer and CEO/President Joel Beiswenger (far right).

Barb Nelson-Agnew from Life Source presenting award to Lois Miller, alongside Kathy Kleen (left) Chief Nursing Officer and CEO/President Joel Beiswenger (far right).

Department of Health and Human Services for reaching a bronze level of achievement by conducting activities that promote enrollment in state organ donor registries. Tri-County Health Care is part of the national Workplace Partnership for Life Hospital Campaign, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health And Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration.

Tri-County Health Care’s awareness and registry campaigns educated staff, patients, visitors, and community members on the critical need for organ, eye, and tissue donors and thereby increased the number of potential donors on the state’s donor registry. The hospital earned points for each activity implemented during Phase IV of the campaign, between August 1, 2014 and April 30, 2015, and was awarded bronze recognition by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Since January 1, 2014, four tissue donors at Tri-County Health Care have provided more than 240 life-saving and enhancing tissue gifts for grateful transplant recipients from Minnesota and beyond. “Our staff is committed to the mission of donation and we encourage others to give the precious gift of life,” said Joel Beiswenger, Tri-County Health Care President and CEO. “The need is real and by registering to become a donor you have an opportunity to provide a second chance at life.”

A gold standard in health care is to have hospitals refer every death to their donation agency partner within one hour and Tri-County Health Care has achieved a 100 percent timely referral rate since 2014. In 2015, 100 percent of families who have been approached about donation have said “yes” to it, either by honoring their loved one’s decision to be a donor, or by authorizing donation to proceed upon their loved one’s death. This speaks to the care and compassion the family receives while at the hospital, as we know they are more likely to proceed with donation if their comfort level is high.

Donate Life Flag

Donate Life Flag

Tri-County Health Care has implemented a donate life flag flying policy and offers the donor family the option of having the donate life flag risen at the hospital and flown for 24 hours in remembrance of their loved one and in honor of the selfless gifts they are leaving as a lasting legacy.

Of the 1,658 hospitals and transplant centers enrolled in the campaign, 736 were awarded recognition during this phase of the campaign. These numbers represent a 29 percent increase in enrollment and a 56 percent increase in recognition over Phase III, and, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are “a tribute to the work that so many have dedicated to this effort. Most important, since launching in 2011, the campaign has added more than 350,000 donor enrollments to state registries around the country, far surpassing the original goal of 300,000.”

This campaign is a special effort of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Workplace Partnership for Life designed to mobilize the nation’s hospitals to increase the number of those registered as potential organ, eye, and tissue donors. The campaign unites donation advocates at hospitals with representatives from their organ procurement organizations, Donate Life America state teams, and state hospital associations. Working together, teams leverage communications resources and outreach efforts to proactively promote the critical need for donors.

Video from our flag raising ceremony this past spring:

For more information about Tri-County Health Care’s participation in this campaign, contact Lois Miller, RN at 218-631-7463 or via e-mail at lois.miller@tchc.org.