2019 Lifesaving Partners Awards Honorees

Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network honored 15 individuals, hospitals and health systems for outstanding achievement in addressing the critical need for organ and tissue donation in 2019 by presenting each with a Lifesaving Partners Award at a special recognition ceremony held on Friday, Oct. 18, at the Hyatt Lodge at McDonald’s Campus in Oak Brook, Ill.

Here are Gift of Hope’s 2019 Lifesaving Partners Award honorees:

Averey AndersonDonor Niece
Averey Anderson
Machesney Park, Ill.

Averey Anderson was only 2 years old when her uncle, Brent Hubley, suffered fatal injuries in a motorcycle accident in 2010. But speaking with her you would think she knew him her entire life. Although she was too young at the time to understand the significance and importanceof her uncle becoming an organ and tissue donor, today the 11-year-old is an avid and active advocate for donation. The remarkable sixth grader raises funds for Gift of Hope, educates students at her school about organ and tissue donation and organizes special events to honor and keep her Uncle Brent’s memory and legacy alive. One way Averey has raised funds for Gift of Hope is by selling handmade bracelets in memory of her uncle. She has sold more than 1,000 bracelets to date, and, with every sale, comes organ and tissue donation education. Averey’s dedication to honoring her Uncle Brent’s lifesaving legacy and to increasing awareness about organ and tissue donation is truly remarkable. Gift of Hope is privileged to recognize and honor Averey as its youngest 2019 Lifesaving Partner.

Community Hospital Designated RequestersCommunity Hospital
Community Hospital Requesters
Munster, Indiana

The designated requesters at Community Hospital are an invaluable support to Gift of Hope and play a vital role in making donation possible. They are dedicated to speaking with families about end-of-life decisions, including those related to donation. They are a great support to families and Gift of Hope partners like funeral home directors and coroners.

Having designated requesters at the hospital supporting families allows Gift of Hope to, in a timely manner, properly evaluate if a family is ready to discuss end-of-life care, including funeral home decisions and the opportunity for organ and tissue donation. Community Hospital staff members are extremely knowledgeable about the donation process, which helps to make it efficient. Their support also helps to determine which families may not be interested in donation. This partnership has also helped to strengthen relationships with Gift of Hope’s funeral home partners.

Approaching families to discuss donation can be difficult and is a critical part of the donation process. The designated requesters at Community Hospital are committed to offering the donation opportunity to grieving families and to saving lives through the gift of donation. Gift of Hope is proud to work with this group and to honor them with a 2019 Lifesaving Partners Award.

Des Plaines Fire DepartmentFire Department
DesPlaines Fire Department
Des Plaines, Illinois

Paul Miller, a Des Plaines, Ill., firefighter, had a fatal accident in April 2019. His devastated family honored his generous spirit and his decision to become an organ and tissue donor. In an outstanding show of support to the family and solidarity toward their fallen brother, several members of the Des Plaines Fire Department stepped into action to honor Paul and his family during Paul’s donation and funeral services. Hundreds of firefighters stood watch night and day at the hospital while all efforts were made to save his life.

Later, when the donation process began, more than 150 fellow firefighters attended the hospital’s flag-raising ceremony, and they lined the halls of the hospital during Paul’s honor walk when he was transported to the operating room where his organs were recovered for donation. Additionally, four honor guards remained with Paul at all times until he was laid to rest. The fire department also arranged to have Paul’s crew and an ambulance escort and transport his body from the hospital to Gift of Hope for the tissue recovery and later to the coroner’s office for the autopsy. The Des Plaines Fire Department went above and beyond to honor its brother and his family, and Gift of Hope is privileged to award it a 2019 Lifesaving Partners Award.

Michelle Harris8th Ward Alderman - Chicago
Michelle Harris
Chicago, Illinois

Alderman Michelle Harris has worked alongside Jack Lynch, Gift of Hope Senior Advisor, for more than 20 years, and her commitment to organ and tissue donation and to Gift of Hope’s mission has grown stronger every year. This year, Michelle championed Gift of Hope’s endeavor to relocate its Chicago office to the Chatham community. Michelle has worked with the previous and current city of Chicago administration to place Gift of Hope’s Chatham office project at the forefront of important decision-making conversations. She has also given her full support to Gift of Hope’s plans to develop a health care training center to help create much-needed job opportunities for youth in marginalized communities like Chatham.

Although the new Gift of Hope building does not technically sit in her ward, a fact she often jokes about, Alderman Harris has been incredibly welcoming to Gift of Hope and is steadfast in her commitment to helping secure community partners for the training center to make this unique Gift of Hope endeavor come to successful fruition. For her dedication and commitment to Gift of Hope and its mission and strengthening the future of Chicago’s youth, Alderman Harris is a deserving and highly valued 2019 Lifesaving Partner.

Jen HillgothDetective, Aurora Police Department
Jen Hillgoth
Aurora, Illinois

In spring 2019, Aurora Detective Jen Hillgoth and Illinois Assistant State’s Attorney Greg Sams went above and beyond to assist Gift of Hope with a child abuse-related donation case and, by doing so, were instrumental in helping to save the lives of three children. Sadly, the case involved an infant whose life was cut short through an act of violence. In these types of cases, detectives and state’s attorneys are sometimes focused on the investigative process and preserving every bit of evidence by not allowing any entity outside of the coroner to touch the victim’s body. Although Jen initially expressed concern about exploring the possibility of organ and tissue donation, she kept an open mind and took the time to talk with a Gift of Hope representative to learn about the donation process. With her guidance, the necessary forensic information was preserved, and donation took place without interfering with the investigation. Greg also expressed interest and invested time learning about donation, and, in doing so, was able to trust Gift of Hope to safeguard evidence while maximizing the gift of donation. Jen and Greg were also extremely helpful in assisting Gift of Hope with the delicate process of securing the necessary authorization from the victim’s family to proceed with donation.

Because of Jen and Greg’s willingness to collaborate with Gift of Hope, transplant surgeons recovered four organs, which helped to save the lives of three other children in dire need of transplants. Gift of Hope is grateful to Jen and Greg for their quick and decisive minds, willingness to collaborate and capacity to absorb new and complex information. They helped bring light to a sad and dark situation and went above and beyond to transform an unspeakable tragedy into life and hope for a grieving family and three other families in desperate need. For their open and dedicated collaboration, Jen and Greg are highly deserving recipients of the 2019 Lifesaving Partners Award.

Greg SamsIllinois Assistant State’s Attorney
St. Charles, Illinois

In spring 2019, Aurora Detective Jen Hillgoth and Illinois Assistant State’s Attorney Greg Sams went above and beyond to assist Gift of Hope with a child abuse-related donation case and, by doing so, were instrumental in helping to save the lives of three children. Sadly, the case involved an infant whose life was cut short through an act of violence. In these types of cases, detectives and state’s attorneys are sometimes focused on the investigative process and preserving every bit of evidence by not allowing any entity outside of the coroner to touch the victim’s body. Although Jen initially expressed concern about exploring the possibility of organ and tissue donation, she kept an open mind and took the time to talk with a Gift of Hope representative to learn about the donation process. With her guidance, the necessary forensic information was preserved, and donation took place without interfering with the investigation. Greg also expressed interest and invested time learning about donation, and, in doing so, was able to trust Gift of Hope to safeguard evidence while maximizing the gift of donation. Jen and Greg were also extremely helpful in assisting Gift of Hope with the delicate process of securing the necessary authorization from the victim’s family to proceed with donation.

Because of Jen and Greg’s willingness to collaborate with Gift of Hope, transplant surgeons recovered four organs, which helped to save the lives of three other children in dire need of transplants. Gift of Hope is grateful to Jen and Greg for their quick and decisive minds, willingness to collaborate and capacity to absorb new and complex information. They helped bring light to a sad and dark situation and went above and beyond to transform an unspeakable tragedy into life and hope for a grieving family and three other families in desperate need. For their open and dedicated collaboration, Jen and Greg are highly deserving recipients of the 2019 Lifesaving Partners Award.

The Rev. Richard JamesSenior Staff Chaplain, Mission & Spiritual Care
The Rev. Richard James
Advocate Christ Medical Center
Oak Lawn, Illinois

As Senior Staff Chaplain at Advocate Christ Medical Center, The Rev. Richard James has long been a supporter of Gift of Hope’s mission to save the lives of as many people as possible through organ and tissue donation. Richard goes above and beyond every day to care for patients and their families. Gift of Hope staff members feel fortunate to work with Richard on a weekly and sometimes daily basis because in every interaction he shows genuine interest in how Gift of Hope staff members are doing. Richard is inherently caring and is deeply invested in serving people — his coworkers, peers, patients and their families.

Richard is actively involved in the donation referral process and collaborates with Gift of Hope before each family approach. He provides insights into how families are doing and introduces Gift of Hope staff members to families to discuss the donation opportunity at the appropriate time. Richard builds trust and respect with the families he serves, and he believes that families will be in the best frame of mind to consider the donation opportunity when they have felt supported throughout their loved ones’ hospitalizations. His calm demeanor, attentive listening and compassionate service are true gifts. Gift of Hope staff repeatedly share how thankful they are to work alongside Richard when supporting potential donor families.

Richard is a true donation advocate and partner in and outside of the hospital. He recently shared his expertise and best practices with a larger audience as a speaker at Gift of Hope’s 2019 Chicago Organ Summit. He gives 100% of himself 100% of the time and advocates for donation both quietly behind the scenes and on the frontlines when supporting families through the donation conversation. Richard is a true 2019 Lifesaving Partner.

Connie NolanPatient Care Manager, Critical Care
Connie Nolan
Amita Health St. Joseph Medical Center, Joliet, Illinois

Connie Nolan is a true champion for organ and tissue donation and is a valued member of the Donation Committee at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center. She constantly goes above and beyond, taking responsibility for updating the medical center’s donation policies and procedures and working hard to ensure that every staff member is aware of the educational opportunities that Gift of Hope offers. Her commitment to increasing donation education has a significant impact on the medical staff’s attendance at events like the Nursing Critical Care Collaborative and helps to foster a positive culture around donation. Connie is also an active member of Gift of Hope’s Nursing Advisory Council and is dedicated to helping develop new and improved ideas and share them with the medical center’s intensive care units.

Connie’s efforts to help increase information and education around donation yielded positive results at the beginning of the year when the hospital had three actual organ donor and two potential organ donor cases in only one week. This case volume required all hands on deck, and Connie made sure her staff was supported before and after donation took place. She is also rolling out a new initiative on the ICUs to provide alerts and developments during donation cases using discrete butterfly magnets placed on the outside door frames of patients’ rooms. Connie has also implemented regular posted reports on care dashboards, which show the number and timeliness of donation referrals made, and the number of donors and missed calls. This system of reporting keeps staff up to date on areas of improvement and their accomplishments. Connie’s consistent drive and efforts to support Gift of Hope’s mission and vision make her an outstanding 2019 Lifesaving Partner.

OSF Brain Death Simulation Workshop Planning CommitteeOSF Saint Francis Medical Center
BD-Simulation Planning Committee
Peoria, Illinois

The Brain Death Simulation Workshop Planning Committee at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center is committed to providing physicians and advanced practice providers with comprehensive learning experiences to strengthen the efficiency of attendees in their approach of brain-death determination and their collaboration with Gift of Hope.

Since the committee’s inception in 2016, its members have worked diligently to design a curriculum for physicians with strategic and measurable learning objectives, goals and outcomes. Over the past three years, the committee has modified the curriculum and agenda for each workshop, allowing Gift of Hope to offer different workshops to advanced practice providers and enhance the learner experience through new and advanced methods of simulated learning.

This same program has been used throughout Gift of Hope’s donation service area as a benchmark for other Brain Death Simulation Workshops, which are hosted at other hospitals and simulation centers. So far, the committee has hosted five Brain Death Simulation Workshops at Peoria’s Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center, educating more than 50 health care professionals, and plans call for hosting a sixth workshop in April 2020.

The excellent work of this committee has undoubtedly improved Gift of Hope’s relationships with health care providers involved in donation after brain-death cases and has positively impacted interactions with families when offering the gift of donation. Without question, the Brain Death Simulation Workshop Planning Committee is a proven and valued recipient of a 2019 Lifesaving Partners Award.

Riverside Clinicians & StaffRiverside Medical Center
Riverside Medical Center
Kanakee, Illinois

Riverside Medical Center consistently demonstrates its commitment to donation, caring for donor families and honoring their loved ones’ donation gifts. The medical center started a donor flag-raising program to honor all families who say yes to donation. On one occasion, the medical center’s staff supported a military donor by providing an American flag to the family to cover their loved one’s body following the organ recovery. After the operation, they presented the flag to the family. The medical center has since made this a permanent practice and formally added it to its donation procedures and protocols.

Riverside Medical Center also started a new initiative to change the colors of the medical center’s spotlights located outside of the building by the Kankakee River to purple and green when a family says yes to donation. This is yet another way the medical center honors donor families and the generous gifts their loved ones offer and helps to increase awareness about the importance and significance of organ and tissue donation. Through creative and innovative initiatives, Riverside Medical Center has demonstrated its dedication to supporting and caring for donor families, and Gift of Hope is proud to recognize it as a 2019 Lifesaving Partner.

Suzie SturmAmbassador Leader
Suzie Sturm
Gift of Hope Peoria Ambassadors for Hope Volunteer Chapter
Peoria, Illinois

Suzie Sturm is a liver transplant recipient and leader of the Peoria Chapter of Gift of Hope’s Ambassadors for Hope volunteer corps. Her leadership, dedication and passion have driven the success of this chapter. Suzie consistently goes above and beyond in promoting Gift of Hope’s mission. She describes her involvement with Gift of Hope as her purpose in life, and she lives this purpose to its fullest every day. Suzie also serves on the Peoria Lifesaving Leaders Advisory Group and is always willing to assist with the efforts of the group to increase awareness of the importance and significance of organ and tissue donation. Gift of Hope is fortunate to have such a dedicated advocate and champion for donation. The lasting impact of her commitment to helping Gift of Hope achieve its mission and realize its vision is beyond measure. Suzie is an invaluable and powerful organ and tissue donation advocate, and Gift of Hope is proud to honor her as a 2019 Lifesaving Partner.

Regina WaldroupReporter
Regina Waldroup
NBC 5 Chicago – WMAQ-TV

Two days before Gift of Hope’s 2019 Chicago Organ Summit, the originally scheduled emcee had to cancel due to an emergency. Regina Waldroup, a TV reporter for NBC 5 Chicago stepped up and offered to be the new emcee. Regina did much more than simply get on stage, read from a script and address attendees. She made a personal connection with every one of the donor families who participated in the summit. She met each one of them before the start of the event, listened to their stories with compassion and offered them words of strength and hope.

Regina’s support of organ and tissue donation didn’t end there. This past summer, Gift of Hope held a donor memorial bench dedication for Jalen Talbert, a young man who became an organ donor in 2017. Regina covered the story, and once again did so much more than what wasexpected of her. She spent quality time with the donor family, and she embraced Jalen’s mother and held her hand as she listened to her talk about her son. Jalen’s 4-year-old son was also at the bench dedication, and Regina knelt so that she could be eye level with Jalen’s son while she held his hand and intently listened to him talk about his father.

Regina made an authentic and positive connection with a family that continues to grieve the loss of their loved one and made that very special day even more special for them. For going above and beyond for others in their time of need, for the extraordinary compassion she shows Gift of Hope’s donor families and for her continual support of organ and tissue donation, Regina is well deserving of a Lifesaving Partners Award.

Katie WilsonFuneral Director
Katie Wilson
Butler Funeral Home & Cremation Tribute Center
Springfield, Illinois

Many potential donor families face a common concern regarding organ and tissue donation — that it may interfere with their loved one’s funeral arrangements. Katie Wilson consistently demonstrates her support of organ and tissue donation by reminding grieving families that organ and tissue donors are treated with great dignity and respect. This eases their concerns and makes a difference in a family’s decision about whether to authorize donation.

On one particular occasion earlier this year, Katie went above and beyond to reach out to the family of an unregistered donor who was not open to donation and was extremely reluctant to speak with Gift of Hope. She spoke to them about Gift of Hope’s mission and organ and tissue donation and reassured the family that donation could happen without interfering with their funeral plans. She also encouraged the family to speak with a Gift of Hope representative who could provide more information.

Because Katie went out of her way to alleviate this family’s concerns, they changed their minds and called Gift of Hope. They expressed that she made a huge difference and put all of their worries to rest, and that they felt good about donating on behalf of their loved one. Unfortunately, due to medical reasons, donation could not happen, but the family walked away feeling good about their decision to consider the gift of donation to help save the lives of others.

Katie understands the importance of offering the donation opportunity to grieving families and the positive long-term solace it can offer them during a dark time. Gift of Hope feels fortunate to have her support and partnership. Her commitment to dispelling myths and misconceptions associated with donation and her dedication to her community and grieving families make her a highly deserving recipient of a 2019 Lifesaving Partners Award.

Stephanie Yohannan & the Neuroscience ICUUnit Director/Nursing Staff
Stephanie Yohannan and the Neuroscience ICU
Rush University Medical Center
Chicago, Illinois

Under the leadership of Unit Director Stephanie Yohannan, the nurses in the Neuroscience ICU at Rush University Medical Center go above and beyond day after day to collaborate with Gift of Hope to offer the donation opportunity to as many families as possible. These nurses provide the highest level of care for their patients and are consistently proactive in identifying potential donors. They are engaged, conscientious and skilled at supporting concerned and devastated families while facilitating communication between Gift of Hope and treatment teams. For this reason, Rush is consistently one of Gift of Hope’s top donor hospitals in referrals, family approaches and authorized cases. From January through the end of September 2019, 50% of all Rush organ donation referrals, 82% of family approaches and a remarkable 95% of authorized cases were generated from the Neuroscience ICU. That translated into 19 authorizations, 40 transplanted organs and 36 lives saved. Through their commitment to excellence, this team has helped transform tragic loss into hope and healing for 19 families, including one donation case that resulted in a successful directed donation of a loved one’s kidney to a close family friend.

Stephanie’s husband is a two-time kidney transplant recipient, and it’s obvious that her personal story underlies her passion for donation and her unparalleled dedication to cultivating a positive donation culture in the unit. She is a member of Rush’s Donation Committee and Gift of Hope’s Nursing Advisory Council and is an enthusiastic resource to Gift of Hope on matters both in and outside of the Neuroscience ICU. She has so inspired her nursing staff to support donation that they often ask that she assign them to donor cases, and Gift of Hope staff members frequently remark about how easy it is to work with them. For all of these reasons, Stephanie and her team of dedicated, talented professionals are all highly deserving of the 2019 Lifesaving Partners Award.

Special Thanks

Gift of Hope Lifesaving Partners Awards Committee

Kathleen Abhalter, Director, External Development
Donna Ferrante, Sr. Financial & Project Analyst
Barbie McKennie, Event Planning Coordinator
Therese Michels, Manager, Communications & Marketing
Veronica Moreno, Public Relations Assistant
Allison Wallace, Supervisor, Hospital Development

Gift of Hope has teamed up with LifeGoesOn.com to make it easy to become an organ and tissue donor. Visit www.lifegoeson.com to join the registry today.

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