As life ends for one person, it is just beginning for someone else. That is the bittersweet reality of organ donation, and the staff and care givers at St. Luke’s Meridian have found a way to honor that process with something they call the “walk of respect.”
When an organ donor is transported to the operating room, they are wheeled down hallways lined with St. Luke’s employees. Anyone who is available will come to line up in a silent display of compassion and respect, said Deb Compton, St. Luke’s Meridian director of nursing. Physicians, housekeepers, administrators, support staff and others have participated in the walk of respect since it started in May 2016.
“I just wanted to do something,” Compton said. “I decided we should just stand here. It shows the family how empathetic we are; we can’t imagine being in their shoes. It gives us time to stop in our busy days and reflect on what is happening here.”
The first walk of respect was for Mark Hagen, a 24-year-old man who had died suddenly. A recent University of Idaho graduate with a master’s degree in accounting, Mark Hagen was staying with his parents in Boise and studying for his CPA exam before moving to Spokane to begin a new job in June. His death was unexpected, but his family knew of his wishes to be an organ donor.
“We were overwhelmed with grief at the loss of our son but knowledge of his organ donation helped us begin to heal,” said his parents, Suzanne and Gavin Hagen. “We were grateful he had made the decision to be an organ donor.”
Hagen, who is a nurse at the St. Luke’s Meridian infusion center, was standing with her family as the staff transported her son to the operating room and people lined the hallways in a silent tribute. She was touched by the display, both as a St. Luke’s nurse and as the mother of an organ donor.
“It really demonstrated a lot of respect and compassion that the staff had. My husband and I were very appreciative of that,” Hagen said.
Mark Hagen’s organ donation helped seven people, including a woman who received one of his kidneys and his pancreas. The Hagen family has formed a bond with that recipient.
“She has a lot of zest for life and he would love that,” Hagen said.
St. Luke’s Meridian began accepting organ donors in 2014 and have had five donors since that time. The hospital’s walk of respect was recently honored with a Hope Award by the Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank.
“The level of compassion and understanding that was delivered was exceptional. I couldn’t have asked for better care and support during that time,” Hagen said.
At St. Luke’s infusion center, Hagen frequently interacts with donor recipients, but she has a new perspective now.
“For so many of the recipients it has been life changing for them,” she said.
St. Luke’s Boise Honored with Hope AwardThe Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank recognized St. Luke’s Boise with a Hope Award for developing an electronic process for ensuring timely referral of potential organ donors. Using the new myStLuke’s platform, a team in Boise found a way to hardwire the clinical trigger into the platform, generating a task for the bedside nurse to initiate a referral.
Chereen Langrill is a former communications coordinator for St. Luke’s Health System