May 24, 2019 by John Fernandez
Hope and Healing: New program at Baptist Hospital Receives First Organ Donor
Three words on the memorial service bulletin of Sheila M. Dietz summed up her philosophy of life: Kindness to others.
“That was her mantra,” said her daughter, Samantha Dietz. “She always was a kind and giving person and wanted to help others.”
So, amid the devastating news from Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute doctors that their beloved matriarch was not going to survive a burst aneurysm in her brain, the Dietz family did not hesitate when asked about organ donation.
“The immediate response was yes, of course,” Samantha Dietz said. “We always talked about dying being part of life. We always agreed that organ donation would be a good thing. We said, ‘Take whatever is viable.’ ”
Sheila Dietz, 73, who died June 1, became Baptist Hospital’s first organ donor under a new program across Baptist Health to honor donors and support their families.
Each hospital chooses how to do so, in cooperation with Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency, the University of Miami-based nonprofit that procures organs from donors in South Florida. With the family’s approval, Baptist Hospital raised a white Donate Life flag, provided by Life Alliance, which flew in front of the hospital before and during the organ retrieval. The flag was later presented to Sheila Dietz’s husband of 47 years, Alan Dietz, during a June 28 candlelight memorial in the Baptist Hospital Meditation Garden, led by Baptist Hospital Chaplain Sammy Alvero.
Her name was the first one placed on a new organ donor plaque in the garden.
“The memorial service was sweet and beautiful and touching,” said Samantha Dietz, whose daughters Kira, 16, and Natasha, 14, also attended, along with some of the ICU nurses who cared for Sheila Dietz. “It helped me heal further.”
Rose Allen, R.N., Baptist Health’s director of bioethics and palliative care, said Life Alliance staff, not Baptist Health physicians, approach families about organ donation in cases of brain death and cardiac death in the Intensive Care Unit.
After doctors have discussed the diagnosis with the family, “then we present ourselves and offer the family the possibility of turning this into an opportunity to give life,” said Dahiana De Francisco of Life Alliance.
Once a donor is identified, “our goal is to collaborate with Life Alliance to optimize organ preservation,” Ms.
Patients not in the ICU who die in hospitals may qualify to donate eyes and tissue, including skin, bone, heart valves, tendon and veins. “A lot of people don’t realize the importance of tissue,” said Ms. Allen, who was honored by Life Alliance in October as a 2012 Tissue Donation
Champion for her “continuous support and unwavering dedication to organ donation.”
Ms. Allen stressed the importance of family discussions about organ donation and other end-of-life issues, and of individuals documenting their desires on legal forms known as advance medical directives.
“It’s a part of healthcare planning,” she said. “Putting it in writing makes it so much easier for the family.” The families of registered organ donors also receive support and services, but, by law, their consent for donation is not required.
Samantha Dietz praised both the Baptist Hospital and Life Alliance staffs for their sensitivity.
“The team was really wonderful — from the ER all the way through the entire organ donation process. They were incredibly compassionate and collaborative; they understood what we were going through and that made a huge difference.”
Sheila Dietz’s lifesaving gift helped the grieving family begin their healing journey. “She would be happy to know she helped others,” Ms. Dietz said. “It’s what my mother would have wanted.”
To download or print an advance directives form, which includes information about organ donation, go to http://BaptistHealth.net/AdvanceDirectives.
In 2011, two patients who died at Baptist Health hospitals became organ donors, leading to five lifesaving organ transplants. Twenty-nine deceased patients became tissue donors, resulting in 2,860 tissue grafts. In the first six months of 2012, 21 deceased Baptist Health patients became eye donors.