Organ donation: One man’s legacy of sharing his life with others

Dawn Stone with picture of her son Tyler

Source: Sharon Malenfant

Guest post from Memorial Hospital, North Conway, New Hampshire

When Dawn Stone stands atop Mt. Chocorua this summer surrounded by family and friends to scatter her son Tyler’s ashes, she’ll be comforted by the knowledge that a part of him lives on in many people she doesn’t even know.

Just 24 years old, Tyler Douglas Wade had an exciting future ahead of him when a pulmonary embolism claimed his life in February. Despite the suddenness of the tragedy, his family worked with the New England Organ Bank through Memorial Hospital to carry out his wishes to be an organ donor.

This April marks the 13th annual National Donate Life Month, a time to commemorate those who have given the gift of life through organ and tissue donation. The New England Organ Bank is one of many organizations actively encouraging people to register their decision to donate. Currently, more than 123,000 men, women and children are awaiting organ transplants to save their lives and thousands more are in need of tissue and cornea transplants.

Tyler’s mother said her son knew at an early age that being an organ donor was important. “When he got his first driver’s license at 16, he made a point to check the box that said he wanted to be a donor,” she said.

She  hopes that by telling Tyler’s story, more people will register to be donors and understand the comfort it can bring family members at a time otherwise filled with sorrow.

“Many things are hard right now,” she said, “but I know that there are 50 people out there who are living with a part of my son’s soul. I love the thought that cells with his DNA are still alive.”

Tyler was able to donate his corneas, heart valves, bone and skin tissue. Donated corneas can restore sight or enhance poor vision that will greatly improve the quality of life for recipients. Heart valves can be used to correct congenital heart defects or valve replacement procedures in children as well as adults. Bone and tissue donations are used for a wide range of surgical and reconstructive procedures, cleft palate repair, spinal fusions and much more.

Ethnee Garner, Memorial Hospital’s VP of Patient Care Services, says transplantation is one of the most remarkable success stories in the history of medicine. At Memorial, it’s not uncommon for surgeons to use donated tissue or bone for grafts and implants. Patients receive a card letting them know that they’ve received a donation.

“There is a federal requirement for hospitals to report every death or anticipated death to an organ procurement bank,” Garner explained. “At Memorial, we contact the New England Organ Bank and they determine if the person might be suitable as a donor. Also, they look at whether the person had indicated a desire to be a donor.”

From that point, it’s the organ bank that contacts the family and handles all of the arrangements. In 2015, there were six people who became organ donors through Memorial Hospital.

Tyler’s mother described him as a theater geek who loved the technical behind-the-scenes work. He volunteered a great deal of his time helping out in theater departments at area schools and in local community theaters. This summer, he was going to be the Lead Carpenter for the second year at The Barnstormers Theater in Tamworth.

“Everyone said that Tyler was an old soul,” Dawn said. “He loved to be out in nature with his dog Gertie, taking photographs, and he was an amazing cook.” He thought of the theater as family, but also recently received his degree as a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor from NH Technical Institute. The future seemed to be wide open for him before that awful February day.

A scholarship has been set up in Tyler’s memory to help students that have been involved in theater throughout their high school years. In addition to the organ and tissue donations, it’s one more way for his family to honor his memory.

“The best part of Tyler was his heart,” his mother said. “He was a kind, caring, non-judgmental person, and now there are many people out there who are carrying a part of that spirit in them. It’s comforting to feel that his essence is living on.”

For more information about organ donation, or to register your intention to be a donor, visit Donate Life New England or call 804-377-3580. Donations to the Tyler Douglas Wade Memorial Scholarship Fund can be made at any branch of Meredith Village Savings Bank or by mail to MVSB, PO Box 177, Meredith, NH 03253.

Guest post from Memorial Hospital, located in North Conway, NH.

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.