Quilts honor organ donors
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After Lisa Carnahan's 3-year-old son received a donor liver nearly two decades ago, she started volunteering for the Center for Organ Recovery and Education.
Shane Carnahan is now 23, has finished college and works as a graphic designer. All along, Ms. Carnahan has been working as both a volunteer and an employee with CORE to publicize the importance of organ donation, doing public appearances and speaking in hospitals.
After seeing quilt squares created by the families of organ donors at a U.S. Transplant Games event, Ms. Carnahan, who grew up sewing and doing crafts, decided to make a quilt memorializing organ donors.
"It sort of just started there with a small project and ballooned from that," she said.
Family members of organ donors create the fabric squares and give them to Ms. Carnahan, who then fashions them into a quilt. She made her first quilts in 2007 and was averaging two or three quilts a year. Last year, though, she made six, and she believes she's making more quilts because of increased awareness of organ donation.
Ms. Carnahan, of North Washington, Westmoreland County, said family members of organ donors have told her that contributing squares for the quilts brings closure and aids the healing process after losing a loved one.
The squares are all unique -- some are simply patches of an organ donor's favorite shirt. If the donor was an avid football fan, the patch might feature a tribute to the Steelers. Some squares have a photo of the donor and their dates of birth and death.
After the quilts are finished, CORE displays them at various functions and educational events.
"I always tell people that ... we are the bridge between donation and lifesaving transplantations," said Misty Enos, associate director of community outreach for CORE. The group does everything from outreach at departments of motor vehicles locations to educational programs at high schools and colleges to health fairs.
Ms. Enos said the squares for the quilts Ms. Carnahan creates are "a living tribute to the gift their loved one gave."
"Lisa's quilts provide a unique way to honor organ, tissue and cornea donors," she said.
After Ms. Carnahan completes a quilt, CORE sends a framed photograph of it to the families of the organ donors featured on the quilt.
"They make it a tribute to their loved one's life," she said. It's a way for the family of the donor "to find something positive out of a terrible, terrible tragedy."
Ms. Enos said CORE works hard to dispel misconceptions about organ donation, such as the myth that first responders won't work as hard to save your life if you're listed as an organ donor on your driver's license.
"When you're thinking about donation and making that decision, you need to think about it as if you're the one waiting for a lifesaving transplant," she said.
First Published August 2, 2012 5:11 am