COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center held its 15th annual Pinwheel Planting and Transplant Reunion Sunday.
About 12,000 pinwheels were planted on the medical center’s plaza, each representing an organ transplant that happened at the hospital. With eight spokes supported by one stem, the pinwheel shows the power of one organ donor who can save up to eight lives.
“I have lung transplant patients who will say, ‘I’m fine, I just can’t breathe,’” OSU nurse practitioner Brea McLaughlin said. “They’ll get their life-saving lung donation transplant and after they are extubated off the ventilator and when they take that first breath, you can see them sigh a breath of release.”
According to Ohio State, more than 105,000 people are currently waiting for a life-saving transplant, and 2,500 of them are in Ohio. Catherine Nelson was one of those on the list until April 2018, when she received a new liver. Nelson had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, and before her transplant, she could not even walk by herself.
“All I did was my sister would take me to the store once a week and my brother would take me for a car ride,” Nelson said. “The rest of the time, I was sitting or doing my physical therapy in my apartment by myself. That was basically my life.”
Five years later, Nelson feels like a brand-new person. She doesn’t know who gave her a liver, but she thinks about how lucky she is each day.
“You just have to realize how grateful you are and how to live your life the best that you possibly can to celebrate that person who gave you a liver,” she said.
Families of organ donors were at the pinwheel planting, honoring their loved ones who saved the lives of so many others with their selfless gift. Ronna Dixon-Young’s son was 29 when he died in August 2021, and is proud that he lives on in this way.
“My son saved four lives, tissue, cornea, they are all out there living,” she said. “And remember through his life, they got another life which affects their lives, and their sister’s life and their coworkers’ lives. It goes on and on and on.”
Becoming an organ donor is easy. You just have to check a box next time you get your license renewed at the DMV or sign up online. You also have the option to be a living donor and donate a kidney or part of your liver.