April 2 Flag-Raising, Moment of Silence Highlights Life-Giving Importance of Organ Donation
The worst day of Rhonda Rozelle’s life came on Oct. 5, 2016, the day her 30-year-old son Zach died of an accidental drug overdose.
“He had a good heart, he was a good kid,” said Rozelle, of Appleton. “He never had anything bad to say about anybody. He worked every day, even though he was struggling with addiction. He wanted to build a house someday.”
After learning that Zach had experienced brain death, Rozelle and Zach’s father Ben had to make the very difficult decision whether to allow organ donation and removal from life support.
“I told Zach’s dad, ‘If Zachary can help anybody out of this horrible thing that has happened, we’ve got to do it,’” Rozelle said. “That’s what made us make this decision.”
Rozelle said the staff at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton treated her son with great respect, and took the time to talk with her and Ben carefully about what they wished to donate.
Zach became the first living heart donor from ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton. Rozelle will honor Zach’s gift during April 2nd’s Pause for Life flag-raising event that will include a moment of silence for those waiting for life-saving gifts like the one Rozelle and her family made.
The nursing staff has been passionately working for many years to support families and loved ones through donation, said Alyssa Thelen, patient care manager of the Intensive Care Unit at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton.
“At a hospital that is used to fixing hearts with surgery and caring for patients with advanced heart disease, it was a shining moment of hope to be able to help give the gift of life to someone who desperately needed a new heart,” Thelen said.
Sue Broeren, ICU nurse and coordinator of the organ, eye and tissue donation program at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah, said it’s incredibly difficult for family members to make the decision to allow the gift of organ, tissue or eye donation while dealing with the sudden pain and grief of loss.
“These families and the donors need to be recognized and thanked for their ability to look beyond their tragedy and make a selfless decision to help others who may die without the gift of a transplant,” Broeren said.
More than 3,200 people are on the waiting list in Wisconsin alone, Broeren said. “Each donor helps decrease the number waiting and allows them a second chance at life. They are truly life savers.”
Donate Life Wisconsin created the annual Pause to Give Life event to bring awareness to the importance of organ, tissue and eye donation. The April 2 observance includes a Donate Life flag-raising ceremony and moment of silence at hospitals statewide to honor donors and their families.
- The Donate Life flag will be raised at 10:08 a.m. at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah, ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton, and ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin. The time symbolizes that one donor can save up to eight lives.
- The moment of silence will continue for 1 minute and 14 seconds to recognize more than 114,000 patients are currently waiting for a life-saving transplant.
- The media is invited to attend the event at the Grant Street entrance of the Appleton hospital.
For more than 100 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose, as well as 31 clinics in nine counties and the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.