Mark was able to give the gift of life to others through the donation of many of his vital organs.
Shortly following the news that Mark had suffered an anoxic brain injury that resulted in complete brain death, I was approached by representatives from the Wisconsin Donor Network about the possibility of organ and tissue donation. My instant reaction was, “Yes, without a doubt.” I don’t exactly recall having a specific conversation with Mark about his wishes, but I knew in my heart without hesitation that Mark would have wanted to give others a second chance at life. An hour or so later into the process I learned that Mark had actually registered himself through the donor network, beyond simply “checking the box” on the back of his driver’s license. This was most definitely a gift he chose to give under these circumstances.
Mark was able to save the lives of four people through his gift of organ donation. He shared his heart, his liver, and both kidneys with people across the United States. Remarkably, Mark’s left kidney was the perfect match for my uncle Kevin, who had been on the transplant list in Arizona for 2 years and was facing perhaps another 3-5 years with his quality of life deteriorating. Mark shared his right kidney with a man from the eastern United States, who is married and has two children and also enjoys spending quality time with his family. His liver was shared with a woman from the midwest who is married with two children and has three grandchildren. I have learned that she enjoys gardening, walking and travel. Mark’s heart was shared with a man from Cedarburg, Wisconsin who is married and has one daughter in college at UW-Whitewater. His pancreas was shared for research with the Medical College of Wisconsin for a study to gather information about pancreatic cancer and ways to treat it. Currently pancreatic cancer has less than a 5% survival rate.
Mark’s donation of bone, connective tissue, skin and veins helped more than 50 people. Bone donation may be used to replace patient’s bones invaded by cancer; without such a transplant, the limb may have to be amputated. Smaller sections of bone are used to strengthen areas of a deformed spine and to fill areas where bone has been lost due to conditions that have damaged existing bone. Skin can be life-saving for critically burned patients. It is also used for hernia repair, pelvic floor reconstruction, and for breast reconstruction following mastectomy. Long veins from the legs can be placed back into someone’s leg to promote blood flow and potentially prevent amputations.