Tree of Life celebrates organ donors’ lifesaving choices

“But to be able to have our loved ones remembered in this way is very special"

Organ recipients, donor family members gather for emotional Tree of Life ceremony

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — The need for organ transplants is overwhelming. In Louisiana alone, more than 1,600 people are awaiting a transplant, with 90 percent of them waiting for kidneys.

Tree of Life ceremony honors organ donor families, recipients

With those kinds of figures, it is easy to understand some of the reasons emotions ran high during the Tree of Life ceremony Wednesday in the Academic Medical Center at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport.

The gathering that morning brought together organ donor families and recipients as they placed ornaments on the tree in honor of those who gave the gift of life.

Among them was Jan Nichols, who placed an ornament on the Tree of Life for her 32-year-old daughter, Cassie Edwards.

“I knew that I wanted her to be a(n) organ donor. But she had already made the decision, which I was very thankful for.”

Edwards, who died in April 2017, donated her heart, lungs, eyes, kidneys and bone tissue.

It turns out, that’s not unusual considering one healthy donor can save up to nine lives.

Nichols said this all boils down to one conclusion.

“This saves lives. Giving an organ, donating an organ saves lives. It’s one of the most important things I believe you could ever do.”

Nichols told KSLA News 12 that one of her daughter’s kidneys went to Mike Patterson.

“He’s been like family to us. And we keep in touch.”

Peterson described it as a very emotional connection.

“It means the world to me. It means the gift of life to be here with my godsend family, as I call them.

“I’m a very fortunate, blessed man to have received an organ from a beautiful heart, Cassie Edwards,” Patterson continued. "And I’m just grateful and thankful.”

Nichols said it's a difficult time during the holidays.

“But to be able to have our loved ones remembered in this way is very special.”

That’s one of the many reasons the Tree of Life will be displayed throughout the holiday season.


The American Transplant Foundation says:

  • 114,000 people in the U.S. are on the waiting list for a transplant
  • Another name is added to that waiting list every 10 minutes
  • On average, 20 people die every day in this country from the lack of organs available for transplant.

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