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The Gift of Life

How organ donors are saving lives and spreading hope in Tulare County

The loss of a cherished loved one is never an ordeal a family is prepared to experience. But when that loved one is registered as an organ, eye, and tissue donor, the gift of life they bestow on others can help families heal from the pain of their loss.

Kaweah Health is honored to provide families with the support they need when navigating the path to organ donation. The medical center is making a difference every day through a partnership with Donor Network West, the organ and tissue recovery organization for Central and Northern California and Northern Nevada. “The well-being of our patients and our community is very important. We care for them,” said Regina Sawyer, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer for Kaweah Health. “Organ and tissue donation is a gift like no other. We are glad to join Donor Network West in celebrating those who have received the gift of life, and to honor the donors and their families who make life possible.”

2018 was a record year for organ donation at Kaweah Health as a result of the compassionate work of its medical staff and a caring culture that truly believes in the power of organ donation. In total, 12 donors saved 48 lives via organ transfer in 2018. After each donation, if the family authorizes, donors are honored with the rising of the Donate Life flag, a touching element giving community members who are passing by the medical center an opportunity to recognize the gift of life just given from one resident to another.

During a special ceremony in November 2018, the family of an organ donor and an organ recipient who was given a kidney at a time of need shared their stories at the medical center as it welcomed the Wall of Hope, a traveling exhibit featuring stories and photos of community members impacted by organ, eye, and tissue donation. German Amezcua, the father of a donor in Fresno, and Sunny Luna, a kidney recipient of Visalia both spoke during the event, which took place inside the hospital’s Acequia Wing. The Wall of Hope was on display at Kaweah Health for 10 days.

“Organ, eye, and tissue donation is possible because of life-transforming decisions made by donors and their families. But we could not carry out those wishes without Kaweah Health’s unwavering support,” said Jason Bailey, Regional Director of Donor Network West. “By displaying the Wall of Hope, the hospital allowed us to continue to highlight donation in the communities we serve together.”

According to Donor Network West, 22,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant in California, and the need is great in Tulare County where 420 people are still waiting for their second chance at life. Unfortunately, only half of the county’s residents are organ and tissue donors. One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people and a tissue donor can heal more than 75 others. “Though it was not an easy decision for us, donating our son’s organs was the right thing to do,” expressed Amezcua. “Donation helps families with their grieving in a way. Knowing that something positive can come out of a loss is very healing.”

Kaweah Health has received a Platinum Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of the Workplace Partnership for Life. The award from the federal government is for Kaweah Health’s involvement in educating the community about organ donation. Kaweah Health is the only hospital in the Central Valley to have received the Platinum Award three years in a row.

Kaweah Health is proud to take the charge of promoting organ, eye, and tissue donation in our community. “Donation touches us all as illnesses do not see race, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status,” Amezcua stated. “It’s on all of us to make a difference together and promote organ and tissue donation in our communities.” Like the pictures and stories featured on the Wall of Hope, we can inspire others to register as donors, and spread hope that has the power to overshadow tragedy.

Anyone can register as an organ, eye, and tissue donor. Learn more about organ donation and how to register as a donor online at
Remember: the best gift to give is the Gift of Life. Sign up today.