PALMDALE — David Hagnes was able to stand before a crowd to tell his story Friday morning thanks to an organ donor.
Hagnes learned in 2000 that he had contracted hepatitis C from immunizations he received to go overseas while in the Army. While the disease appeared dormant at first, a back injury treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs eventually led to liver failure.
“That all started my downhill thing with the disease,” he said. “I was bad. I wanted to die.”
Hagnes’ wife Debra fought to have him included on transplant lists, eventually being moved to the top of the line for the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he had to go to a facility in Portland, Oregon.
“It was a lot of waiting,” Hagnes said.
He received a liver transplant in June 2014.
“After surgery, recovery was very hard,” he said, having to relearn how to walk, how to eat and more.
“I’m really grateful for the transplant. I’m really thankful I’m here,” he said. “I’m thankful for the donor. I’m sorry for the life that was lost. That really hurts. Somebody died for me, that I might live.”
Hagnes spoke to those gathered at the front entrance of Palmdale Regional Medical Center, organized to mark April as Donate Life Month, an effort to spread awareness of organ and tissue donation.
“What we do is we care for people in their entire life span,” Palmdale Regional Medical Center CEO Dick Allen said. “That life span begins at birth and it continues right into death with the ability to have somebody else be helped by the organ transplants that we help make available, because we communicate the importance of it.”
Part of that communication came Friday, as officials raised a Donate Life flag over the hospital entrance, which will fly throughout the month. The goal is to raise awareness, to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to honor those who have saved lives through the gift of donation.
“In taking care of families, you’re ensuring that they have the opportunity to give the gift of life and make something good come from their loss. You’re not only taking care of them, you’re taking care of your hospital family, you’re taking care of your community, you’re taking care of this country and our world,” said Tom Mone, CEO of OneLegacy, the organ and tissue recovery organization serving the seven-county greater Los Angeles area.
“That sense of generosity, looking beyond yourselves, looking beyond your borders, is the root of donation and is so well integrated in Palmdale Regional,” he said.
Last year, Palmdale Regional Medical Center assisted 21 donors through OneLegacy, officials said.
Across Southern California last year, 77% of those who could be donors did so, Mone said.
“It’s a real testimony to the generosity of our neighbors and our friends, and the institutions and people who make it happen,” he said.
On average, each organ donor can help up to eight people, said Ariel Wages, donation development coordinator for OneLegacy.
In addition to the more well-publicized organ donations, tissue donors can provide life-saving and life-changing aid to as many as 75 recipients each, she said.
This tissue is used for skin grafts and replacing joints, heart valves, tendons, arteries and many more procedures that may have a dramatic impact on the recipients’ lives.
Additionally, donated corneas are vital to repairing sight for those who receive them.
“It’s the one thing you can do that basically becomes immortality,” Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer said, noting he has become listed as an organ donor on his drivers license. “If you don’t have that little pink dot (which signifies an organ donor on the license) on there, go over and get it done.”
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