A new memorial honoring organ donors was unveiled today outside University of Louisville Hospital, a long-hoped for tribute as the nation observes Donate Life Month.
“This permanently reminds us of and represents the gifts and the sacrifice that have been given by the dozens and dozens of donors that have come through this hospital over the decades,” said Glen Franklin, MD, a trauma surgeon at the hospital.
The Gift of Life Donor Memorial is a sculpted from stone and stands more than 5 feet high, with a bronze plaque featuring two hands holding a heart and the words “Gift of Life Donor.”
Doctors, nurses and staff of UofL Hospital, along with donor families, organ recipients, and representatives from Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) and the Trust for Life Organ Donor Awareness Program, were in attendance as the memorial’s cover was removed and the Donate Life flag was raised behind it.
Franklin said the memorial had been eight years in the making, with years of fundraising and a final design decided upon last year. UofL Hospital and KODA employees, transplant recipients and donor families began raising money to fund a memorial on hospital property in 2010, beginning with the Legacy of Life Walk that year.
In addition to honoring organ donors, the memorial is designed to help raise community awareness about organ donation.
“People are used to seeing survivor walls, but these people didn’t survive. But because of their selfless gift, others lived. It’s an opportunity to honor them and their families,” Franklin said.
Donna Edwards’ son Mike became an organ donor at age 25 after he died in a workplace accident. She attended the unveiling with her granddaughter – Mike’s daughter, Mikayla, now a UofL student.
“Right after the funeral, we found out our daughter-in-law was pregnant. Mikayla never had the chance to know her dad, but this is a way to know how he helped other people,” Donna Edwards said. “We knew he wanted to be an organ donor, and he helped save the lives of four other people. I’m thankful we knew ahead of time what he wanted.”
She said the memorial is extremely meaningful for her.
“When I pass and see this memorial for the donors, it makes me feel good inside,” Edwards said. “It helps to know all they do here at this hospital to help save lives.”
The memorial lies to the left of the main entrance to UofL Hospital at 530 S. Jackson Street, between the hospital and UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center.