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  • My Donation Journey
  • Tim Joos

To understand how my donation journey began, I need to take you on another kind of journey. To do that, I need you to imagine that you’re 17–years–old and a senior in high [End Page 19] school. It’s a school day just like any other except it’s raining outside. You’re ready to leave for school, so you say goodbye to your Mom and head out the door.

Your path this morning includes a short stretch of four–lane highway. You come to the top of a hill, and through the rain, you see a valley down below and a hill going up the other side. It starts raining harder, so you slow down. At the bottom of the valley, as you splash through the water, you feel the car start acting strangely. The rear end starts coming around. So you lift your foot off the gas and steer to straighten the car, but it has no effect. The car continues in a slow spin.

Suddenly you see headlights and they’re right in front of you. You scream. There’s a crash. You no longer exist. You couldn’t have known that it was raining so hard, the water couldn’t get off the road fast enough and you hydroplaned over it. You couldn’t have known that you spun into oncoming traffic just as a semi–truck coming the other way got to the bottom of that same valley and he was going 55 mph. You couldn’t have known that the impact was so hard the vehicles became one, and your car was pushed 180 feet (that’s 60 yards) back the way you came. You couldn’t have known any of this because your head struck something on impact that killed you instantly.

A friend of yours was right behind you and saw it happen. An off duty ambulance was behind your friend, so EMT’s were on the scene immediately but there was nothing they could do to help you.

You did everything right; you wore your seatbelt, had your lights and wipers on, you were going about ten miles an hour under the speed limit. But still, through no fault of your own, you died.

Your family & friends are devastated. Classmates immediately erect a cross at the accident site. Your family, friends, and most of the high school including teachers and staff show up at your visitation and your funeral service.

The journey you just took really happened. It happened to Sam.

What will you do with your body? For Sam, the choice was easy; donation. It had been discussed with the family and agreed upon ahead of time. Sam was able to donate 25 tissues and saved a stranger’s life.

I am Samantha’s father and I miss her more than you can probably comprehend, but I am also very proud of her. Sam lost her life to a rainstorm shortly before her 18th birthday, but she made her short life count. What will you do with your body when you’re done with it? Please be like Sam. Talk to your family. Register to be an organ & tissue donor so others can receive the gift of life.

When I’m feeling sorry for myself, I think about all the things I missed; her high school and college graduations, dancing with her at her wedding, her children—my grandchildren that will never be. But that’s painful to think about. So I try to think about her recipients; their graduations, their weddings, their children that wouldn’t be without Sam. And it helps a little bit. [“Samantha’s Story” of donation is available on]

What you’ve just finished reading is a portion of the presentation I share with groups while educating them about organ and tissue donation. It is also what inspired me to begin my own donation journey.

After Sam’s death, I started volunteering my time with Donate Life Illinois and Gift of Hope (the Organ Procurement Organization supporting Chicago and surrounding areas). I spent many hours speaking to groups sharing Samantha’s story of donation...


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pp. 19-21
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