Remembering loved ones that gave the ultimate gift--that's what Handmade Hope, an initiative by the Indiana Donor Network, tries to do for area families. When someone dies tragically, oftentimes part of them lives on in someone else, because of organ donation.
Rhonda Berger received an early morning call 9 years ago that her daughter, Jennifer, was trapped inside her burning apartment building with two roommates. "I could hear them coughing, gagging, you know. So I knew it was bad. Eventually, you know the phone just went silent. Heard her moaning with each breath, I knew then, she was dying."
Rhonda says she felt helpess. "You know, on the phone I wanted to reach through and grab her. What would you do? There's nothing you can do? You just hope the fire department can get there, can get in there. But by the time the fire department got there it was so fully engulfed, you had to beat flames down to even enter the building."
Jennifer didn't make it, but her organs provide life for other people. "So within a few hours after that we found out that they had three potential recipients. One for each of her kidneys, and then one for her liver."
Elizabeth Houser's husband passed three years ago, and it helps her knowing his organs were donated. "I think that helps a lot knowing there are people saved because of him, and we were able to do that for him."
Donor families gather to make ornaments to remember their loved ones, a process that helps with healing. Courtney Tillotta said, "It's so important because it leaves a lasting legacy. It lets them know that their loved one is not forgotten, and that their loved one gives life to others."
And Rhonda says knowing her daughter was an organ donor allows a part of her to live on. "The outcome wasn't quite what we wanted, but they were able to get them out, to where they could help save the lives of other people, by being donors."
Anyone can become an organ donor. Find out more at Indiana Donor Network's web site.
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