Organ donors given special honors at Topeka hospital

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Jeri Coats was one of a kind.

Her daughter, Meghann Stotts, describes her as "fun," with "a heart of gold."

Jeri was well-known in the northeast Kansas motorcycle community, hopping on her yellow bike, and earning the moniker "Queen Bee."

"When everyone got together she was the mom of the group. She took charge," Meghann says.

It all made Jeri's sudden death in March sting that much more.

Jeri suffered a brain aneurysm at work. As the family gathered in the ICU, Meghann looked at her mom's drivers license and saw Jeri wanted to be an organ donor.

While they'd never discussed it, Meghann says it really wasn't a surprise to see.

"My mom would give the shirt off her back to help anybody," she said. "Knowing my mom the way we know my mom, her view was she didn't need it anymore - she might as well help as many people as she could."

The gift would not go unnoticed.

"The families and patients are absolutely heroes," said Jana Tenbrink, RN, a nurse manager at Stormont Vail who has started coordinating Honor Walks at the hospital.

Stormont began the Honor Walk last fall, inspired by videos they'd seen from other facilities. All hospital staff are alerted by email and by overhead page. They join family and friends in lining the halls to honor those who, in losing their life, give life to others.

"It's not about going viral on social media with a video," Tenbrink explained. "It's about taking a moment to show a sign of respect, take a walk with that family. That's a very lonely walk going from the ICU to the operating suite."

Jeri's family did not walk alone. Her biker friends stood alongside dozens of people who never met her.

"It was amazing...the people that showed up," Megahnn said. "People coming together to honor any human being, be it my mom or anybody else, is amazing."

The Honor Walk is Stormont's latest step in honoring organ donation. They also have a courtyard with a special fountain, and a memorial wall pays tribute as well.

Nearly 500 people in Kansas - and 115,000 nationwide - are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Another person is added to the list every 10 minutes, and 20 people die each day waiting.

Each gift, from a single person, multiplies.

Over the last five years, Tenbrink says Stormont has had 63 organ donors which saved the lives of 200 people, and 200 tissue donors which has enhanced about 15,000 lives.

Knowing her mom is part of that impact, Meghann says, is the true honor.

"We miss her," she said. "She was tremendously loved by so many."

Meghann hope sharing their story inspires other people to consider organ donation. You can do so when you renew your drivers license, or sign up on the Midwest Transplant Network registry at www.donatelifekansas.com.