Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Katie Would Have Been Very Proud'; Organ Donation Coordinator Still Inspired by Teen's 1998 Sacrifice

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Katie Would Have Been Very Proud'; Organ Donation Coordinator Still Inspired by Teen's 1998 Sacrifice

Article excerpt

Byline: CHARLIE PATTON

Since the Mayo Clinic, where she works in transplantation services, was a presenting sponsor of Saturday's Katie Ride for Life, it's not surprising that Patti McHale was there.

But for McHale, whose job at Mayo is to help find organs for people in need of transplants, the cause is also personal.

In the spring of 1998, McHale was working at Shands Jacksonville for LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services when 17-year-old Katie Caples, a junior at Bishop Kenny High School, was brought in with a devastating head injury.

Six days later, when it became clear Katie would not recover, McHale's job was to approach the Caples family about the possibility of harvesting Katie's organs.

Once McHale spoke to them, David Caples remembered that Katie had indicated she wanted to be an organ donor when she first applied for a learner's driving permit.

Katie's heart went to an 18-year-old man in New York. Her right lung went to a 62-year-old widow and mother of five children in North Carolina. Her liver went to a 42-year-old single father of two daughters in California. One kidney went to a 30-year-old man in Seattle. The other went to a 9-year-old girl in New York.

To honor Katie's memory, her family started The Katie Caples Foundation. Although its original focus was on scholarships, in 2004 it became the local sponsor of "Decision: Donation," a national program aimed at educating high school students about organ donation. The annual Ride for Life raises money for that cause.

With more than 100,000 Americans awaiting organs for transplant, such events play a crucial role in raising awareness of the need for organ donation, McHale said.

She said this year's ride was a great success.

"It was a beautiful day, and everyone seemed to enjoy the camaraderie and the purpose for the ride," she wrote in an e-mail. …

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