Hastings family hopes daughter's death will help raise awareness of need for donorsArea News
-- At the age of 16, Katy Blehm decided to become an organ and tissue donor.
By: Katrina Styx, Pierce County Herald
At the age of 16, Katy Blehm decided to become an organ and tissue donor. Her grandmother had already been waiting two years for a liver transplant and didn’t get moved to the top of the wait list until the day she died.
When she was 18, Katy died in a car crash while driving out of Hastings on Highway 55. It was a construction zone, and she had gotten distracted, said Katy’s mother, Mary McPhetres. Katy hit a concrete barrier, then went into oncoming traffic and struck an SUV. She died instantly.
But Katy’s story continues. Because she was an organ and tissue donor, she was able to help about a dozen other people in their struggles for a better life. Her organs couldn’t be used, but two people got new corneas and several others received tissue, thanks to her decision to be a donor.
Katy’s decision wasn’t a surprising one to her family.
“We were always donors in our family,” said her father, Tom Blehm.
“You can save somebody’s life,” McPhetres said.
This Friday, April 20, Katy’s parents will be among those wearing blue and green to raise awareness for the need for organ and tissue donors. This month is National Donate Life Month, and there’s a nationwide effort to get 20 million new donors, they said. The blue and green colors are for Donate Life, which is part of the non-profit LifeSource Organ and Tissue Donation.
According to LifeSource statistics, there were just 165 deceased organ donors in the Upper Midwest region in 2011. As of February, 2012, there were nearly 3,200 patients on the waiting list for an organ transplant.
The need is what Tom Blehm and McPhetres focus on.
“It’s a hard decision to make, but it’s one you will never regret,” McPhetres said.
It’s also the thought of how close to home the need can be. It could be a close friend or family member or even oneself that needs a transplant, they said.
Since Katy’s death, her family has had help overcoming their loss. The Red Cross was the organization managing organ and tissue donation at the time of her death, and the program was taken over by LifeSource. LifeSource holds gatherings for donor families and donor recipients, and attending those have helped Katy’s family, her parents said. Not only do they get the chance to interact with other donor families who have lost a loved one, but they also get to see the impact donation has on those who receive a transplant.
“It’s very touching to see the donor family and the recipient,” Blehm said.
For more information about LifeSource, go to www.life-source.org. For more about Donate Life, go to www.donatelifemidwest.org/mn.
Katrina Styx is a staff writer for the Hastings Star Gazette.