July 2, 1996 in City

Mother’s Tragic Death Offers Life To Others Organ Donor Had Explained Wishes To Family

Associated Press
 

Shannon Drennan was too young to die. Just 32, she had escaped a bad marriage and, over the past six years, made a new life for herself and her two children.

She earned the respect and affection of her co-workers at Ropak Northwest Inc. in Kent, and bought a house for her little family in Eatonville.

In mid-May, after two weeks of struggling with disorientation, dizziness and pain, Drennan died - victim of a blocked artery that caused her brain to bleed and swell.

And because of her, eight people will live or go on to better lives. Their names are confidential, but here is the list provided by the non-profit Northwest Organ Procurement Agency here, which helps coordinate such donations in Western Washington, Alaska and Montana:

Her heart went to a 29-year-old mother of two who’d been waiting for a heart transplant since November. She was out of intensive care in two days, eager to prepare for a new life.

Her lungs went to two people - a 68-year-old man, married and retired and making a steady recovery, and a 53-year-old woman.

Her liver went to a 46-year-old woman whose own liver failed for unknown reasons. In intensive care and near death when she was airlifted here for surgery, she is waiting now to go home.

Two people received her kidneys - a 46-year-old single man in the Midwest and a married 52-year-old woman on the East Coast, a social worker with an adult child. Both had spent more than a year on dialysis.

Her corneas went to two Northwest men - a 27-year-old and a 46-year-old.

In addition, her skin, bones, bone marrow, ligaments and cartilage will be used in grafts to help 30 to 40 people, the Northwest Tissue Center said.

Drennan made these gifts of life possible by signing an organ-donor card - an option for anyone that can be exercised in Washington state when obtaining a driver’s license.

And she talked to her children and her parents about her wishes, so there was no confusion in the critical, grief-stricken hours after her death.

“We knew that she wanted to be a donor. We did this out of respect for her,” said her mother, Beverly Wilson of Graham.

Her father, Ken Wilson, noted that “it’s very important for people to sit down and talk about this stuff.

“It makes it a lot easier for the persons left behind, because then you know what to do.”

Such communication is crucial, agreed the Rev. Roger Decker, bereavement coordinator for the Northwest Organ Procurement Agency.

A signed donor card is no guarantee, though it helps. The decision is up to the next of kin. Most, however, will accept their loved one’s wishes. A recent Gallup poll found 93 percent would do so, Decker said.

“My experience with hundreds of people … is that knowledge does make a difference. They often will say no until you show them a donor card.”

The Northwest rate of donor approvals is about 70 percent, but the need never ends.

More than 45,000 people nationwide - and at least 600 in the Northwest - are waiting for an organ, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

A third of those needing a transplant die when no organ becomes available. Last year, just 5,345 organs were donated nationwide.

The Wilsons say they’re glad they were able to follow through with her wishes and might have approved donation of her organs anyway.

“A lot of these people have been in pain for months and years,” Beverly Wilson said of the recipients.

“Our family’s been very healthy. This is the first really devastating thing that has happened.”

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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