Garden of Hope honors organ and tissue donors

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By Lois Miller, RN, BSN, Garden of Hope Project Manager


Nationally, more than 117,000 people are waiting for transplants, and that number rises every day. Those transplants might be the difference between life and death, which is why all organ and tissue donors, whether living or deceased, deserve gratitude.

View of the Garden of HopeA group of Tri-County Health Care employees and interested community members proposed the idea of a memorial garden. A garden represents life and hope and could serve as an inspiration to others to consider organ and tissue donation.

The nonprofit organization LifeSource, which aims to save lives with organ and tissue donation in the Upper Midwest, helped the garden committee spark ideas for this new project. The committee included a heart transplant recipient and two families of organ donors.

Youngbauer Landscaping built the garden on the Wesley Hospital lawn and unveiled the work in progress to the public during Tri-County’s community block party on July 18.

A circle of pavers will surround a weathered stone bench and blooming plants while the organ donation flag flies overhead. One by one, each paver will be engraved with a donor’s name. The peaceful area offers visitors a place to rest, reflect and recognize each donor listed.

The centerpiece of the garden is a poem engraved in granite, written by former Wadena resident and heart transplant recipient Jim Swenson. He penned the poem about six months after receiving his transplant on Sept. 18, 2004.Garden of Hope on the Wesley Lawn

“How else can I put it other than to say I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t received that gift of a heart?” Jim said. “It means everything. It’s a chance for life, and it is almost impossible in words to express gratitude for being given that chance.

“I can tell you from a standpoint of caregivers, while they are waiting for loved ones … I think the garden would be a wonderful place for them to go sit for a while rather than a hospital waiting room.”

You can share in the legacy established by the Garden of Hope by purchasing a paver to honor a donor or by making a donation toward the garden’s preservation. Pavers will be added on an ongoing basis and can be ordered at any time.

Brochures and paver order forms are available at Tri-County Hospital entrances or can be obtained from Project Manager Lois Miller at 218-631-7485 or A plaque in the garden will recognize those who have made a financial donation.


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