In a heartwarming event that underscored the profound impact of organ donation, the recent Gift of Life Ceremony held at the Wisconsin Executive Residence in Madison on August 18, 2023, paid homage to the selflessness of organ donors and their families.
This poignant occasion was not only an opportunity to acknowledge the generosity of individuals who chose to give the gift of life, but also a moment to appreciate the trusted quality and experience of the UW Organ and Tissue Donation (OTD) program. Attending as representatives of the UW OTD were Joshua Glazer, MD, and Matthew McCauley, MD, faculty of critical care medicine at the BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine, UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
The ceremony was a touching tribute to the families of organ donors across Wisconsin, extending a heartfelt recognition to the 70 families in attendance. The occasion served as a unifying force, gathering families from all corners of the state who had made the courageous decision to honor their loved ones by donating organs in 2022. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, esteemed attendees, and representatives from UW Health collectively came together to express their gratitude to these families for their selfless contributions.
The remarkable Gift of Life
There are more than 100,000 people in the nation who are waiting for life-saving organ transplants. Another name is added to the national waiting list every 9 minutes, and an average of 19 people die every day because they did not get the organ they needed in time.
Sadly, the number of people waiting for an organ or tissue donation vastly exceeds the number of donors. More organ donors are needed to save more lives.
The UW OTD is one of 57 federally designated, not-for-profit organ procurement organizations in the nation. For more than 50 years, UW Organ and Tissue Donation has been recognized as one of the nation’s finest organ procurement programs and a national leader in serving deceased donors.
Dr. Glazer’s and Dr. McCauley’s presence underscored UW Health’s commitment to supporting organ donation and transplantation efforts in the state, representing the UW Health Organ & Tissue Donation Advisory Committee (DAC) at the Gift of Life ceremony as Chair and Associate Medical Director, respectfully.
As the advisory committee’s chair, Dr. Glazer helps to ensure patients and loved ones are able to provide the gift of life through organ donation if a patient’s life cannot be saved. His work includes removing systems barriers to organ donation, enhancing relationships between clinical care teams and organ procurement organizations, and providing care teams with education and resources.
“Through DAC’s work, we have made advancements in organ donation practices and significantly reduced missed referrals to the UW OTD, consequently elevating the rate of successful organ conversions and saving lives,” said Glazer.
Dr. McCauley, who joined the University of Wisconsin faculty this July, hopes to bring his expertise as an Emergency Intensivist to further develop guidelines, protocols and best practices already in place at the UW OTD and to foster relationships throughout UW Health and with partner hospitals. His work will help to advance procurement efforts and education provided to clinical care teams across the state.
“It is an honor to do this important work and to serve organ and tissue donors and their families as they share the ultimate gift of life and healing,” McCauley said.
A lasting impact
The resounding impact of organ donation on recipients cannot be understated, offering them the promise of extended, vibrant lives. However, as expressed through the stories shared by donor families during the ceremony, it is evident that organ donation’s ripple effect profoundly touches the lives of donors’ families as well.
“Beyond the sorrow of loss,” noted Glazer, “the act of donation can impart a sense of purpose, closure, and an enduring legacy for families grappling with grief.”
The Gift of Life Ceremony serves as an epitome of compassion, dedication, and expertise. It not only recognizes the vital contributions of organ donors but also shines a spotlight on the unwavering commitment of medical professionals, including Dr. Glazer and Dr. McCauley, who are leaders in advancing critical care practices and enhancing the landscape of organ donation in Wisconsin.
Reflecting on this poignant event, Dr. Glazer expressed gratitude for the opportunity to meet and hear from donor families and how their stories inform his work with the UW OTD.
“Our mission and efforts honor the spirit of giving that unites our communities near and far, shaping a brighter future for organ transplantation.”
The Gift of Life Ceremony was co-sponsored by UW and Versiti Organ and Tissue Donation.