Karen Malone walks the halls of the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. Filled with emotions, she keeps her tears at bay despite the memory of her last visit, four years ago — when her son died.
“Today isn’t about sadness. It’s about celebration,” said Malone. She has made it her mission to spread awareness about organ donation after her son, Cole Malone, became a young donor at the age of 16.
“He signed up. He wanted to help others,” she said. “Little did we know that his selfless wish would come true so soon.”
Leaders from the hospital and LifeGift, an organ and tissue recovery agency, honored donors, recipients and the families of donors who have given or received the gift of life through organ, tissue or eye donation at the annual Wall of Life celebration.
“Organ tissue donation is vital to improving the health of individuals in the community,” said Joseph DeLeon, president of Texas Health Fort Worth. “Making this decision to give the gift of life is the ultimate sacrifice but it’s one of the most selfless gifts someone can give.”
The power of donation
On April 6, 2015, Cole was riding his bicycle home from a Boy Scouts meeting at his church when he was hit by a car. He was transported to Texas Health Fort Worth but never recovered from his injuries. Hundreds of people — including family, friends, classmates, teachers, Boy Scouts and church members — filled the trauma surgical ICU, joining together in support of Cole and his family.
Nurse manager Charlsea Prichard, R.N., was there the day Cole was brought to the ICU.
“Families are an extension of our patients,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to care for the patient and the family during their most difficult and vulnerable time of need.”
And the care continues after a patient has died.
The Kidney Transplant Program at Texas Health Fort Worth helps give new life to patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and throughout the country. A team of surgeons on the medical staff, transplant coordinators, social workers and financial coordinators help navigate every step of the journey from pre-transplant to post-transplant. The staff has performed more than 1,000 kidney transplants since the program began in 1986.
LifeGift coordinators met with the Malone family to explain the next steps of the donor process. Cole was already a registered organ donor but since he was a minor, his parents had to give consent.
“Texas Health Fort Worth and LifeGift were so caring during our four days in the hospital,” Malone said. “The medical team really comforted us and helped us understand the organ donation process.”
Cole’s liver, kidneys, lungs and heart were recovered and transplanted in several people from Texas.
The road to healing
Malone made the brave decision to face the memories and return to the trauma surgical ICU when she visited the hospital for the Wall of Life event.
She immediately found the room where he received care.
“I never left his side while he was still with us,” she said.
Some of the nurses who helped care for Cole happened to be on shift. One by one, they hugged her and said they remember the young Boy Scout.
“Nurses experience grief alongside the family during these times,” Prichard said. “To have Mrs. Malone here brings healing and closure to her as well the staff.”
“Thank you for everything you do. It means a lot to thank you in person,” Malone told the nurses.
The Malone family honored Cole by creating a Ghost Bike, a roadside memorial where a painted white bicycle is placed after a cyclist has died. The memorial now has a permanent home at their church.
“Next time you see a white bicycle, think of Cole and the other cyclists who died,” Malone said.
“Cole’s memory lives on,” Prichard said. “It’s encouraging for nurses to see the care they provide can make a difference in the lives of patients and their families.”
About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is a faith-based, nonprofit health system that cares for more patients in North Texas than any other provider. With a service area that consists of 16 counties and more than 7 million people, the system is committed to providing quality, coordinated care through its Texas Health Physicians Group and 29 hospital locations under the banners of Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Huguley. Texas Health access points and services, ranging from acute-care hospitals and trauma centers to outpatient facilities and home health and preventive services, provide the full continuum of care for all stages of life. The system has more than 4,100 licensed hospital beds, 6,400 physicians with active staff privileges and more than 26,000 employees. For more information about Texas Health, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit www.TexasHealth.org.