I have been working in the field of organ and tissue donation for more than 15 years and have always enjoyed the work that I do. I know donation has the power to provide a measure of comfort for donor families and can save lives for recipients. One of the things that keeps me going in this profession is the stories of how people are helped by the work Lifeline of Ohio does.
The experience I had last week has renewed my commitment to the cause. I was privileged to accompany a local donor family as they honored their son, Jeremy Doyle, for his “Gift of Life” by having his floragraph placed on the Donate Life Rose Parade® Float.
Within minutes of registering at the hotel in Pasadena we met a young woman. We started talking about why we were in town and her eyes started tearing up. She said she was a liver recipient six years ago. She was so grateful for her transplant and thanked the family for Jeremy’s gift. It didn’t matter to her if Jeremy was her donor or not, she said every donor family needed to be thanked. This was just one of the many transplant recipients we met all with the same message. They are here today because of someone else’s generosity and they wanted to share this with the world.
From the hotel we were taken by shuttle to a barn where the Donate Life Float was under construction. We were provided with the background on how the float idea “…One More Day” was developed. I wasn’t surprised to learn it was a recipient who had the idea, just wanting to give back. I was in awe of the size and grandeur of the float. The minute details that went into the design and decoration were absolutely amazing. Every surface of the float had to be covered with organic materials.
For the next six hours we were each assigned tasks and I was given the opportunity to work on the “Done Vida” sign that would be the main message of the float. Three of us worked to glue onion seeds to the edges and border of the sign, and then we used sheets of seaweed to cover the letters of the sign. We were supervised closely, as every detail is important when millions will be seeing the work.
As we worked on the float we heard stories of both donor families and recipients. Every story I heard gave me an increasing sense of pride that the work Lifeline of Ohio does enables these positive outcomes. One donor father thanked me for the work I do. I told him I couldn’t do my job without families like his. He smiled and agreed.
On the day before the Rose Parade we were allowed to view the judging of the floats. The Donate Life float had to be pulled out of the barn prior to the judging so the clock tower (which was taller than the barn) could be stood upright. All of the final touches were completed including the sign our group worked on.
Words cannot describe the beauty of what we saw in the completed float.
The flowers were everywhere; they were so colorful and bright. By far the most inspirational part of the float was the 72 floragraphs that adorned the clock faces. Each picture represented an organ or tissue donor with an incredible story of generosity. Each one of the floragraph families was in attendance and emotions were running high.
The Deavers Family was in awe of the float and so was I. There are hardly words to describe how the float made us feel. We all had tears in our eyes, touched that Jeremy was being recognized in such an amazing way.
When the judging started the music began to play. The song “100 Years” was chosen as the best choice to represent the theme of “..One More Day” and the preciousness of time. Some judges were in tears as they spoke to the float riders and listened to their stories.
When the judges finished a bell rang and the crowd erupted in applause. After the applause died down the judges formed a group and spoke to the audience. They said they were extremely moved by the message and heart that was shown in the float. According to people that have been here in past years this has never been done before. We found out the next day that the Donate Life Float earned the highest honor of “Judges’ Special Trophy” given for outstanding showmanship and dramatic impact.
Every entry in the Rose Parade was beautiful, but in my opinion none compared to the beauty of the Donate Life Float. Each float had a message to share but, here again; none compared to the message the Donate Life Float presented.
After the days spent in Pasadena, I came away with a great sense of pride in the work my colleagues and I do and feel privileged to be given the opportunity to work with these amazing families.
- Jackie Hines, regional procurement coordinator for Lifeline of Ohio