Giving the Gift of Life through Organ and Tissue Donation

Article excerpt

Catholic high school student's organ donation turns into a beacon of hope for others

David and Susan Capíes of Amelia Island, Florida, received the call that no parentno person- ever wants to get. It's the one that starts with, "There's been an accident," and ends with "I'm sorry. "

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in April 1998. Seventeen-year-old Katie Capíes, a National Honor Society student and track star at Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, was driving home after having volunteered for a charity walk. Detoured through a construction zone, Katie was in an unfamiliar place when she inched her way onto a busy road. She never saw it coming. Katie's car was t-boned by a pickup truck.

With her family and friends praying at her bedside, Katie fought for life cou rageously for six days before succumbing to brain death. When approached for donation by an organ donor coordinator, David recalled Katie signing up to be a donor when she got her license the year prior. Katie's parents did not hesitate to honor her wishes.

In the 14 years since Katie passed, David and Susan have turned their loss into a beacon of hope for others. They work tirelessly to create and fund opportunities that will encourage and inspire individuals, primarily high school students, to make the life-saving decision to embrace donation. established the Katie Capíes Foundation and the Katie Ride for Life, an annual cycling event that raises funds to support the foundation's initiatives. The Katie Ride for Life epitomizes generosity of spirit and a commitment to service above self.

The Capíes do this not because of a need for donation within their own ily; rather, quite the opposite. They do this because others have a need. They work to alleviate the suffering of others by improving what can be improved, such as supporting organ donation efforts that will provide hope to the 114,000 patients on the national organ transplant waiting list. They share the painful story of losing their oldest daughter in hope that others will be inspired to follow in Katie's footsteps and designate themselves as organ donors. And it's working.

More than 30,000 high schools students have learned about donation in northeast Florida as a result of the Capíes' efforts. The number of students enrolling on Florida's donor registry is going up, up, up. The number of people joining the registry when they obtain their driver licenses in Nassau County, where they live, is going off the charts.

What the Capíes do comes purely from the heart with no expectation of receiving anything in return. David's passion for donation did not arise out of a need; it rose from a gift. He is humble and positive and consistently gives away credit directed toward himself, instead showering it upon those around him.

Lori and Patrick

Lori Rush was hesitant to attend the annual Tribute to Life remembrance event sponsored by LifeQuest, the organ donor program in northern Florida. It had been six months since her brother, Patrick DeNoewer, was killed in a scuffle and became an organ donor, and this was to be the first event Lori would attend as a donor family member. Her husband couldn't make it; her leg was in a cast and she just wasn't up for it. However, she took a moment to "talk" to Patrick about going. He answered, and she went- a decision that changed her life and redefined her brother's legacy.

The DeNoewer children grew up in a suburb of Cleveland and attended St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School before moving to Florida in the mid1970s. The youngest of three, Patrick was the baby of the family in every sense of the word- special in his mother's eyes and coddled too much.

"Sometimes he didn't face up to responsibilities, and that led to poor decisions as a child and adult," Lori said. One of those bad decisions led to incarceration.

"He went through a bad time, but he was finally beginning to mature and grow up and realize that he had to take responsibility for his life," she said. …