Memorial wall gets 41 new names

By Anne Halliwell

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An anonymous inscription on the UK Chandler Hospital’s Gift of Life wall reads, “We honored our daughter’s wishes by donating her organs. Knowing that she lives on in others helps mend our broken hearts.”

UK HealthCare and the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) together presented the Gift of Life Celebration at the UK Chandler Hospital on Satuday.

The celebration recognized organ donors’ families, as well as the aid others have received through transplants and tissue donation.

This year, 41 new organ donors’ names were added to the 240 names already memorialized on the wall.

The Gift of Life Celebration brought together the families of the organ donors from 2012 and transplant recipients from all over Kentucky to talk about the impact of organ donation on the recipients and their families, and the potential lives that each party can touch.

Donna Slone, client services director at UK HealthCare and employee of KODA, said the work they do is truly about saving lives.

“I see all these lives improved, so that makes my mission, my purpose at KODA, very meaningful,” Slone said.

She also said in her work with donor families, she has found that having a lost family member donate organs to patients in need often helps the families in their grief.

After a tribute to the families of the organ donors, Tricia Ricketts, a community member and mother of a donor, took the stage to speak about the loss of her son, Ryan Scott Wilson Wright, in May of 2008.

Her speech painted a picture of her 25-year-old son, calling him “a typical young adult trying to find his way in this big world,” and focused on the benefits of turning his death into something positive.

Ricketts looked for a way to ensure that her son had a legacy.

“I looked at organ donation as a ripple, like a stone thrown into a pond,” Ricketts said.

In her speech, she said KODA has helped her to connect with two of the people who received Wright’s organs, giving her the chance to share her son’s story without focusing on the tragedy of his death.

James A. Davis of Richmond, Ky. is a recipient of an organ donation who recently celebrated the 20-year, six-month anniversary of his heart transplant.

At age 66, he continues to manage his 13-acre farm with minimal assistance. He said he is grateful for his transplant because it gives him the opportunity to live a normal life.

“I go fishing, I have grandkids … I enjoy gardening … I do most anything I want,” Davis said.

Davis believes that KODA is doing a fantastic job of creating support networks for patients before and after their transplants.

He speaks to college students about the importance of organ donation.

“I think you have an obligation to share your experience and that there is a great need for it … to let people know that it works,” he said.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are currently over 119,000 Americans on the waiting list to receive organs.

Acquisition of a donated organ is determined by the level of necessity, blood type and body size of both the donor and the potential recipients.

Approximately 6,000 Americans die each year while waiting for a match, according to the UNOS website.

Slone, who made the closing remarks at the Gift of Life Celebration, stressed the need for registration as an organ donor at

She said that her job allows her to see all the lives that are saved through donation and transplants, and encourages people to allow loved ones or themselves to go onto the registry.