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Wrapped in Love: Carlsbad woman saves 5 people by donating organs

Tri-City Medical Center says honor walks are a way for the medical community to demonstrate their respect and gratitude to donors and their grieving families.

More than 22,000 Californians are currently waiting for an organ transplant which is why Tri-City Medical Center is honoring those who donate the gift of life. In this Zevely Zone, I went to Oceanside to meet the mother of an Honor Walk donor. "This is an honor for our family and this is an honor for my child," said Debby Carman.

It was in October when the family of 51-year old Gwen Daigle said goodbye to their loved one with an honor walk. Tri-City Medical Center doctors, nurses, staff and executives lined the hospital’s corridors to honor Gwen who had suffered an anoxic brain injury. Gwen was wheeled into her organ donation surgery with her surviving family members at her side. "I thought it was so beautiful and tastefully done and I just felt like I was wrapped in love," said Debby.

Honor Walks like the one for Gwen and her family at Tri-City, are a way for the medical community to demonstrate their respect and gratitude to donors and their grieving families. Gwen's mother says even when her daughter was a little girl, Gwen was a giver, so Debby wasn't surprised to learn her daughter was a registered organ donor. "Out of our tragedy and our loss, something good and positive has come out of this and I'm the kind of person that always taken a negative and turned it into a positive," said Debby. Gwen was a mother of two girls herself, ages 25 and 12.  "Gwen was just the light of my life and I think she was the light of many people's lives," said Debby.

Gwen was shopping at Walmart when she suffered a spontaneous brain injury and bleed. She lived for seven days but her life couldn't be saved. Two of the organ recipients waited more that 10 years for their gift of life. 

Tri-City held its first Honor Walks in March and April and was the first hospital in San Diego to adopt the ceremony in partnership with Lifesharing, the state-authorized nonprofit that works with local hospitals, such as Tri-City, to coordinate organ and tissue donation. Other medical centers in San Diego are starting to adopt the Honor Walk ceremony as well.

"Gwen's organs were donated and saved the lives of five different people," said Dr. Gene Ma, the Chief Medical Officer at Tri City Medical Center. Dr. Ma says an Honor Walk is a celebration of altruism. "You want to be able to thank somebody like Gwen who has made such an incredible gift," said Dr. Ma.

Gwen’s heart saved the life of a 61-year-old man, her lungs were transplanted into a 31-year-old man.  A 44-year-old man received Gwen’s liver and her kidneys saved the lives of a 58-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man. 

"I thought what a beautiful gift for us to give others and to help me get through this because it has really really helped me to get through this. I don't think I could have got through this without knowing that others are living because of her," said Debby. "So it has given me a lot of inner peace to know that because of my daughter, that five other lives were saved and these people are there with their families at this time. It is sad that my child can't be here but you know, it's a positive thing. It gives me peace in my heart, there is a reason this happened. She is my hero, she is my hero."  

Nationally, 150 people are added to the list daily. Most wait years for an organ match, others wait decades and some wait until their final breath.

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