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Our Family's Donation Story
by Ardeth Weed, retired CA School Supt/Prin, Donor Mom

My daughter, Jennifer Rebeca Salazar, was a 21-year-old college student studying to be a speech/language therapist on November 13, 1993. She had a new boyfriend, a part-time job at a car wash, a special brother 17 months younger, and many friends who valued her gifts of sharing and laughter.

About midnight that night she was returning home from an evening with some of those friends. She chose to walk/run home because she had to be at work the next morning and the friends were not yet ready to leave the restaurant. As she ran across a wide, well-lighted three-lane street, a single car hit her, driven by a college student much like herself. She went up on the hood, and fell back on the street, striking the back of her head on the pavement.

The emergency vehicles came and she was transported to the nearby hospital. Her heart stopped once in the ambulance, but was revived with electric shock. As the hours passed and she didn't respond well to treatment, the case coordinator for the organ procurement organization (OPO) was called, tests for brain death were given, and finally brain death/death was pronounced late the next morning. She was kept on the ventilator, as she appeared to be a viable candidate for organ/tissue donation.

Meanwhile, because she was carrying no identification, it took a number of hours to identify her, with the help of the police, her employer, and finally her roommates. I was notified and arrived at the hospital early in the afternoon; my partner shortly afterward. Since brain death had already been pronounced, the hospital staff and OPO case coordinator began the process of explaining her condition to us, waiting a bit for us to assimilate the information, and then approaching us with the idea of organ/tissue recovery. I did know that Jen had put the organ donor sticker on her license when she first got it. Thus, I was sure of how she and I felt, but since we had not discussed this as a family, I wanted to wait until my son arrived to make sure that he concurred. He did agree, and I began signing the papers, a process which seemed to go on forever.

We then waited for the recipient matching process to finalize, the recovery teams to come to the hospital, and her surgery to finish. We left the hospital about 6 a.m. the next morning.

The hospital staff was wonderful. It was the first organ/tissue recovery they had done in that hospital, so they were traveling an uncharted path. One special memory is the invitation by a nurse for me to help bath Jen before she went into surgery. It was an experience that I will treasure forever.

Many people came to the hospital to be supportive—family members and friends of hers and ours. My memories of those hours are so bitter sweet—so painful and so filled with love.

The driver, whose blood alcohol level was .24, took a long time to stop the car. Jen, whose blood alcohol level was 0.17 ran across the street in front of him. I believe if either one of them had not been drinking that night, she would be alive today, and he would not have to live a life of regret.

Jen's organs gave life to:

  • an older man who received her heart and lived another 8+ years with a much better quality of life than before his transplant,
  • a middle-aged man who received one kidney and is still doing very well, and
  • a 12-year-old girl who received the other kidney and is also continuing to live a full life.

Jen's liver had been damaged in the accident, so could not be used, even though a recipient had been identified. However, there are recipients of her bone, skin, corneas, ligaments, and other useful tissue. Through donation, Jen could continue her giving ways, even after her death.

Jen's life was filled with laughter, singing, love and friendship. She brought joy and comfort to the many family members and friends who loved her. She is with us always


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