“ My Personal Angel”
The following article appeared in the
Gannett Wisconsin Newpaper
Monday, August 12, 2002
The Gift of Life
Tissue donation was natural choice for
grieving Waupun Family
Waupun- Melissa Hanson was known for her kindness and willingness to help
anyone in need.
Four months after her untimely death in an automobile accident at the
age of 16, she is still meeting the needs of others through a self-
directed tissue donation.
Her mother, Loni Wendt of Waupun, says the decision to donate was a
natural one for her youngest child who had witnessed other relatives
giving the gift of life to others after their deaths.
"When she got her driver's license, she immediately put the donor
sticker on. It was just something she believed in and recognized the
need for donation," Wendt said. "I was very proud of her for making
The Wendts alerted the coroner of Melissa's wishes to be a donor. In
the early morning hours following the crash, officials from Allograft
Resources, a regional tissue recovery service based in Madison, contacted
the family to obtain consent for the tissue recovery.
"We gave them permission to do any donations they could for her,"
Wendt said. "They were able to recover her eyes, long bones, skin and
blood vessels. It's not as much as she wanted to donate, but it does help
knowing that she may be helping someone to see or helping to further
research and education, so that someone in the future will be able to be
helped because of her unselfishness."
Allograft Resources communications manager, Paula Symons says tissue
donation from one donor is able to help hundreds of people. Skin, bones,
heart valves, veins and connective tissue including tendons and cartilage
are used in more than 750,000 routine surgeries performed each year in
the United States.
Because tissues can be recovered 12 to 24 hours after death, more people
are eligible to donate tissue.
"With vital organs, a very specific set of circumstances have to be set
in place in order for donation to be done." Symons said. "In that situation
a person must be declared brain dead and be on a ventilator. With the
shortage of organs and long patient waiting lists being in the spotlight
many people aren't aware of the tissue donation. There are some wonderful
opportunities for donation that involve tissue, and they are just as
beneficial and life-enhancing and mean a lot to the recipients."
In the same way that donated tissue can heal the bodies of recipients,
the donation process can also help to heal the hearts of family members
"It's given us a sense of closure, but it's also knowing that she's not
really gone- that parts of her are living on and helping others to have
improved lives," Wendt said. "As short as her life was, it's given more
purpose to her life in retrospect. In fact, many of her friends have
signed their driver's license, wishing to be donors, also."
Since the loss of her daughter, Wendt is hoping to honor Melissa's
decision by spreading the word about organ and tissue donation along
with dispelling fear of the unknown associated with donation.
"People are afraid that donation will somehow disfigure their loved ones.
At Melissa's funeral, no one looking at her would have known she was a
donor," Wendt said. "What good is a perfectly good organ or tissue being
cremated or buried in the ground? This is the last chance that you have to
help people, so that another child, parent,or grandparent doesn't have to
die and suffer the same loss that you're suffering. Why not let them give
those gifts as a memorial to them."
..More information about tissue donation is available by contacting
Allograft Resources at 1-608-231-9050.