Gifts that saved or improved the lives of others were honored April 19 in Pleasanton as the California Transplant Donor Network held its 20th "Donor Family Gathering," inviting more than 500 family and friends of organ and tissue donors.
"In describing someone who at great personal loss thinks of helping others, 'hero' is the only word I can think of," said Cindy Siljestrom, Chief Executive Officer of the nonprofit which works to arrange organ and tissue donation in Northern California and Northern Nevada.
CTDN holds Donor Family Gatherings several times each year. Invitees Saturday were the families and friends of those who became organ and tissue donors in 2013. Last year, 920 organs and more than 2,000 tissue donations were arranged. Hearts, livers and kidneys are among common organs transplanted while corneas and tendons are typical tissue donations.
"Those gifts mean children have their mothers, fathers can walk their daughters down the aisle, grandparents can see their grandchildren, people can grow up and continue to pay their gifts of life forward in many generous ways," Siljestrom told the crowd in the Exhibition Hall at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.
During the ceremony, pictures of donors were displayed in a slide show. Later CTDN staff and guests presented each family with a "Gift of Life" medal.
Other speakers at the event included Monty Montoya CEO of SightLife, which arranges corneal transplants; Rear Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu, acting Surgeon General in 2002 and 2006 and whose wife and daughter became donors; and Dr. Waldo Concepcion, professor of surgery and chief of Clinical Transplantation at Stanford University, and chief of Pediatric Kidney Surgery Transplantation at Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.
In a special moment, transplant recipients spoke to the group of donor families, passing the microphone to each say "Thank you." That included Dave Fiore.
Spending most of his career with the San Francisco 49ers as an offensive lineman, he was the recipient of tissue to repair his knee that allowed him to have greater movement. It not only allowed him to play again, but gave him a better life after his career ended.
"His two small children have their father to play with them in the backyard, something most of us take for granted, but something Dave thinks about every day," said Siljestrom.
CTDN will hold another Donor Family Gathering in Fresno Saturday, April 26 and in Reno on May 18.
The California Transplant Donor Network saves and improves lives by facilitating organ and tissue donation for transplantation.
It partners with 170 hospitals in 40 Northern and Central California and Northern Nevada counties to offer the option of organ and tissue donation to families whose loved ones have died, coordinates deceased organ and tissue recovery and placement to waiting transplant recipients.
For more information or to register as an organ and tissue donor, go to : donateLIFEcalifornia.org/