2015 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Michael Hinkens

The family of donor Michael Hinkens with his photoMichael Hinkens was a hero on all fronts - to his country and to the lives he saved and improved through organ, tissue and eye donation.


Michael was a dedicated United States Marine who served in Japan, Afghanistan and Iraq. His mother Christy says, "He was a Marine through and through - dedicated to the core. He even voluntarily extended his tour of duty in Iraq so he could serve with his fellow Marines."


He was devoted to his family and friends, saw the goodness in others and spent much of his free time hunting, fishing and enjoying nature. He loved to debate and also loved caramel mochas, which he missed greatly while he was overseas. When he returned from Iraq, Michael started to experience respiratory issues and was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), an irreversible lung disease which took his life in March 2013 at age 30.


Michael had previously told his family and friends that he supported organ, tissue and eye donation. Because his sister has visual impairment, and he saw her struggles, he felt especially strong about the importance of cornea donation. Michael legally registered as an organ and tissue donor in January and died unexpectedly just two months later from respiratory complications.


Michael's parents, Christy and Doug, are grateful to Michael's ICU nurse, Danielle, who cared for him at Ministry Saint Clare's Hospital. Danielle worked closely with UW Organ and Tissue Donation team members Veronica Lawrence, RN, and Lynn Berg, CST, to confirm Michael's donation decision.


ICU nurse Danielle with UW Organ and Tissue Donation team members Veronica Lawrence, RN, and Lynn Berg, CSTChristy recalls, "It was such a relief when Danielle told us that Michael had registered to be an organ donor. Now we knew we didn't have to make that decision for him, because he made it for himself." Together, Danielle, Veronica and Lynn worked around the clock with the physicians at Ministry Saint Clare's Hospital to ensure Michael's decision to be a donor would be honored.


"I knew that the family wanted to be able to do this one last thing for him before they said goodbye," says Danielle. Having lost her own sister just two years before, Danielle could understand the pain the family was going through. She not only cared for Michael, but reached out to Christy to make sure she was taken care of, too.


"I remember what my mom went through and wanted to support Christy," says Danielle. "During those sleepless nights at the hospital I listened while Christy told me about Michael. I wanted to make sure everything possible was being done to ensure they could honor his wish to become a donor."


Thanks to the skill and compassion of providers in UW Organ and Tissue Donation's (UW OTD) service area, families like the Hinkens are able to receive support during the darkest hours of their lives. UW OTD staff works to develop collaborative relationships with hospitals throughout the region in order to create a more direct connection with the bedside providers.


Because of the collaborative effort, many hospitals have dedicated resources and donation teams to provide trained and caring staff during the donation process. These people are committed to organ and tissue donation - and to the donors and families they serve - by providing the best end-of-life experience possible.