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Transplant patients give thanks for health care workers, donors

For Donate Life Month, heart and kidney recipients ‘living life to the fullest’ visit OHSU staff
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Heart and kidney transplant recipient Mike Hargett, along with two-heart and one kidney transplant recipient Tracy Hoyle, visited the Cardiovascular ICU and other OHSU departments on Friday, April 14. (OHSU/Christine Torres Hicks)
Heart and kidney transplant recipient Mike Hargett, along with two-heart and one kidney transplant recipient Tracy Hoyle, visited the Cardiovascular ICU and other OHSU departments on Friday, April 14. (OHSU/Christine Torres Hicks)

Tracy Hoyle of Boring, Oregon, and Mike Hargett of Battle Ground, Washington, are eternally grateful organ recipients who dedicate much of their renewed lives to helping others understand organ transplantation’s many and far-reaching impacts.

As members of the nonprofit Donate Life Northwest’s speakers bureau, they frequently join community gatherings to share their personal stories and encourage organ donation. They also meet with health care workers to express appreciation for the important roles that physicians, nurses and others play in both transplantation and organ donation.

“Many hospital staff don’t get to see transplant patients being alive and well,” said Hoyle, once a patient at Oregon Health & Science University, who has undergone two heart transplants and one kidney transplant. “Instead, they often see us when we’re at our sickest. To be able to go back to OHSU and share what I’ve been able to do since my transplant, and how it was only possible because of staff like them, is so incredibly important.”

2022 Organ Transplantation At A Glance:

  • United States: 46,324 organ transplants*
  • Oregon: 521 organ transplants*
  • OHSU: 222 organ transplants

Sources: OHSU, Organ Procurement & Transplantation Network

*National and state data last updated 3/31/23

In recognition of Donate Life Month, Hoyle and Hargett recently visited with OHSU Hospital intensive care unit and operating room staff who are involved in transplantation and organ donation. The April 14 visit was organized by Cascade Life Alliance, the federally designated organ procurement organization that works with all hospitals in Oregon and parts of Washington and Idaho to facilitate voluntary organ donation involving deceased donors.

“Organ donation and transplantation often occurs amidst tragic circumstances and after an unexpected loss,” explained Nikki Ryan, an alliance hospital development coordinator who joined Hoyle and Hargett on the recent visit.

“Hospital staff are there every step of the way, supporting families through their grief,” Ryan continued. “Thanks to the compassionate care that hospital staff provide, families are able to feel safe and supported when Cascade Life Alliance staff begin a difficult, but potentially life-saving discussion about organ donation.”

Hoyle was particularly struck by the reaction of one nurse when she stopped by OHSU’s cardiovascular intensive care unit, where its patients include both those who are waiting for a donated heart and those who have recently undergone a heart transplant.

“She just literally started crying,” Hoyle recalled. “She was new to nursing and said she had never had an opportunity to meet an organ recipient until then. That made my entire day. I want hospital staff to see us living. I want to be able to say ‘This is what you did.’”

Hargett — who had a heart and a kidney transplant, and now works as a part-time private chef — also feels energized when visiting with health care staff.

“I feel like I’m the luckiest man in the world. Meeting with hospital workers makes the miracle of life even brighter,” Hargett said. “Being able to thank doctors, nurses, janitors and everyone else at the hospital … it’s just so important for them to see me post-transplant. The last time many health care workers saw me I was lying flat on a hospital bed, but now I’m up and about, living life to the fullest.”

Through the Cascade Life Alliance, OHSU facilitated 35 deceased organ donors in 2022, which is the most of any Oregon hospital that year and resulted in 98 life-saving organ transplants. OHSU surgeons performed 222 organ transplants in 2022, and have performed a total of 8,046 transplants since 1959, when OHSU was home to the first human-to-human kidney transplant on the U.S. West Coast.

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