This Nurse and Organ Donor Got a Hero’s Goodbye

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Over 100 hospital employees honored a late co-worker before their final selfless act.

They stood shoulder to shoulder in a hallway at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Hamot hospital in Erie, PA, as the body of Mary Desin was wheeled past them. The deceased nurse was being taken to an operating room to have some of her organs donated as she’d requested.

"It was extremely emotional," Desin’s son, Matthew James Desin, told Good Morning America. "Most everybody was crying. People I didn't even know came up to me during the time and said how much they loved her and she helped them get further in their career."

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"I expected maybe 20 people from her times as an OR nurse and her current position to be there," he told the news program. "I didn't expect over 100 people to be impacted by her loss."

Desin had worked in health care for 39 years. She wore a number of hats at Hamot and was most recently an admissions nurse. Her obituary says she was "generous to a fault, always helping anyone that crossed her path."

She was 58 when she passed away on June 2. She’d had a brain aneurysm, Good Morning America says.

UPMC Hamot lit up the hospital’s South Tower with blue and green lights for 24 hours in honor of her, and the center plans to make a tradition of it. “Whenever Hamot performs an organ procurement, the transplant lights will be illuminated for 24 hours to honor each donor and the gift of life that they are providing,” David Gibbons, president of UPMC Hamot, wrote to employees.

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Donny McDowell, a nurse and a friend of Desin’s, told GMA how much he admired her for donating her kidneys and liver. "What Mary was doing was very brave," he said. "[It was incredible] to see the lives that would be changed because of Mary's gift."

The need for transplants is critical. Over 113,000 people in the U.S. are on the national waiting list, the Health Resources & Services Administration says. And each day, 20 people die waiting.

“Though most Americans support organ donation, only about 58% of us have actually signed up to be donors,” says WebMD Medical Editor Neha Pathak, MD. “It's amazing to know that just one person can donate up to eight lifesaving organs.”

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on June 27, 2019



Neha Pathak, MD, medical editor, WebMD.

Karen Beardsley, manager, media relations department, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Health Resources & Services Administration: “Organ Donation Statistics.”

Good Morning America: “Over 100 hospital employees line halls to honor late nurse who became organ donor.”

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