Donate Life Month: WMC nurse/kidney recipient raises flag over hospital

By Kristy Bleizeffer Apr 3, 2018

Medical Unit nurse Morgan Swingholm and paramedic Tim Weaver hug as the Donate Life Wyoming flag is prepared for Monday's raising ceremony.

April is National Donate Life Month, a time set aside to encourage Americans to register to become organ, tissue and eye donors while honoring donors who have already given.

As it does each April, Wyoming Medical Center on Monday raised the Donate Life Wyoming flag in front of the hospital with some very special honorees.

Morgan Swingholm, L.P.N., a nurse on our Medical Unit, helped raise the flag along with loved ones of a very special donor who passed away over the weekend. Morgan is a kidney recipient, and July will mark two years since her transplant. 

"I'm here to say that I love my life, and I wouldn't be here without my organ donor," Swingholm said.

The flag ceremony is organized by WMC's Donor Resource Team which encourages donation to the public. It also helps coordinate with Donor Alliance to get donated organs and tissues to registered recipients. 

Last year, there were eight organ donors in Wyoming, and four of those came from Wyoming Medical Center. From those four donors, 12 lives were saved and 44 tissues were donated.

"From each tissue donation, upwards of 75 recipients can benefit," said Gary Loghry, regional consultant for Donor Alliance, the federally designated organ procurement organization covering Colorado and most of Wyoming. 

About 59 percent of Wyoming residents with a driver's license or state I.D. are on the organ donation registry, Loghry said. That's in the top 10 percent of states across the country. Still, more than 119,000 people across the country are on the waiting list for donated kidneys, hearts, lungs and other organs.

"There are about 40,000 corneal transplants nationwide annually, and over half a million tissue transplants," Loghry said. "So these programs from hospitals such as Wyoming Medical Center have a wide impact and far reaching outside of their immediate community. What we saw this morning, with Morgan helping to raise that flag, the impact of organ donation is felt everywhere."

Morgan was 18 when she was diagnosed with lupus. It eventually attacked her kidneys, and she went into kidney failure. She underwent dialysis for about four months. 

In July 2016, the University of Colorado called and said they had a deceased donor who was a match. She had 30 minutes to reply, and then she caught a flight to Denver and had her kidney transplant the next day. 

"I feel better than ever," she said. 

Jenea Goddard, R.N., heads the hospitals Donor Resource Team and is the director of our Intensive Care Unit. Unfortunately, her floor cares for among the sickest patients in the hospital, and sometimes we cannot make them well. But giving families the opportunity to see their loved ones make the final gift can help bring peace. 

"My uncle is a bilateral lung transplant recipient, going on two maybe three years. I know how important it is," Goddard said. "Being an intensive care nurse, and seeing how many lives can be saved, that's why I'm a huge supporter of donation."