Michelle's Story

The following tribute was written by Scott, Michelle's husband.


UW Health Organ Procurement Organization donor tributes: Organ donor Michelle, with her husband ScottWhat Defines a Hero?


In most cases, what people think of when they hear the word "hero" is someone who does something that is above and beyond the call of duty. In some cases, it may be someone who is in the military; in other cases, it may be a public servant such as a fireman or a police officer.


My definition of a hero includes people who are not thought of on a daily basis, and who do not receive a medal or a media attention. These people are organ donors. People who checked the organ donor box on their driver's license or mentioned that "Upon my death, I wish for my organs to be donated so that others can live." I know this definition to be true, as this was the wish that my wife, Michelle, had.


Organ donation is something people need to be made aware of; there are more than 100,000 men, women and children who are in need of organ transplant in the United States alone, but, there were only a little more than 25,000 deceased and living transplants done in 2012. Before my wife's untimely death, she had said to me, "If I were to pass away, I would like my organs to be donated, as I cannot take them with me." This I found to be a very selfless act, and I never thought I would have to put that plan into action.


When the doctors informed us that she had passed away due to complications during surgery, one of the first things that came out of my mouth was to tell them she was an organ donor. As I looked around the room, I noticed one of the nurses spring into action and later I found out there is, in fact, a lot of planning that involves organ donation. Not only do you have to find the perfect match, but you also have to go through a lengthy question-and-answer process. This is a series of questions that are asked so that the medical establishment has a complete medical history, so they can proceed with the next step, which is finding the correct match. This process can take hours, or, in my case, days. In most cases, people think that they only take the crucial organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, etc., but this is not true; they are also able to use a patient's skin for skin grafts. In my wife's case, they were able to use her left lung, heart, kidneys, retina and skin. All in all, the organ and tissue donation professionals informed me that she was helping approximately 100 people.


One person in particular was a farmer who was in desperate need of a lung, as he was suffering from an incurable disease known as Farmer's Lung. This particular disease is caused from breathing in molds and spores coming from hay and other agricultural products. This particular person was not able to walk 40 feet without collapsing to the ground. With the donation of Michelle's lung, he is now able to work his entire farm, which consists of approximately 400 head of cattle. We have received numerous letters from him and his family stating that they are very grateful for the gift that he received. Michelle is talked about at his family gatherings, but she is also starting to become well known throughout the community. Without her gift of life, this particular person would have never made it to through a full life.


I have only spoken of my wife, but there are thousands who make this selfless act every year. In my mind, these men and women are the real heroes, together with their family and friends who have to make the decision to donate their organs. While their sprit is gone, they live on in others.