Creating a Legacy of Life

Creating a Legacy of Life

Thirteen years ago, Kelly’s husband Johnathan, a healthy, 33-year old father of two, had a massive stroke and was brought to Valley Medical Center. Within two days, despite major surgical intervention, the swelling in Johnathan’s brain caused his brain function to cease.  “It was a huge shock,” says Kelly. “I wanted to hold onto him as long as possible. Even though I knew he was brain dead, as long as I was next to his warm, breathing body, it meant I hadn’t given up on him.”

Organ Donation is a Collaborative Process
Though Valley Medical Center is always dedicated to the health of our patients and the preservation of life, in some instances where damage is too great, a life may cease. Valley continues to serve the wishes of a self-designated organ donor patient by contacting LifeCenter Northwest (LCNW), our region’s federally selected, organ procurement organization. LCNW has earned Valley’s trust by interacting with families with sensitivity and compassion during difficult times. When a family approves a donation, Valley works collaboratively with LCNW to allow them to carry through with that family’s wishes.

Five Lives Saved
Through Valley Medical Center’s initial contact with LCNW, five of Johnathan’s organs were matched and transplanted: five people and their families received the chance at a better life. “Johnathan was all about leaving a legacy to help others live. In fact, we had always been proactive about planning and had talked about organ donation. We agreed it was in alignment with our faith and we both would want to make the ultimate gift to help others and do good with a body we no longer needed,” says Kelly.

Advance Care Planning is a Loving Gift
“I know some are fearful about the discussion, but especially when you are young, making advance directions in a living will for end-of-life medical decisions and organ donation is such a loving thing to do for those who are grieving,” says Kelly. “And it’s the responsible thing to do as parents of young children, for the sake of your own children.”

A Passion for Helping Others in Johnathan’s Memory
Kelly is passionate about continuing to help others in Johnathan’s memory. She served on the LCNW Advisory Board and continues to be a community advocate for organ donation. Using her husband’s memorial funds and life insurance proceeds, Kelly provided seed money toward a high school in Johnathan’s name in Zambia, the Johnathan Sim Chikanta Secondary School. Built through World Vision, Johnathan’s employer, the school opened in 2007 and has “graduated tons of students, with many going on to pursue further education,” says Kelly. “The school will be a labor of love for the rest of my life,” as she talks of helping with the school’s maintenance, teacher training and bringing in corporate partners like Intel to build a computer lab and keep the equipment refreshed. Both pursuits have given Kelly the space to talk freely about Johnathan and help her and her children through the grieving and loss process. “My children and I visit the school every three years. The last time my kids helped the students learn to use computer tablets. We’re currently planning the 15th Annual JSIM Golf Classic & JSIM Gala event which has raised money to build school dormitories and is now fundraising to complete construction of the kitchen and dining hall.

“Leaving a legacy has been a big thing for our kids. Johnathan did all he could to help others, especially children. Even when they were much younger, I’ve talked with our kids who are now 16 and 17 about organ donation, how it’s the kind of gift anyone can give, and it’s the gift their father gave to help others live,” says Kelly. “Now that my son is driving, he signed up to be an organ donor and understands the impact that his father’s gift made—five lives saved.”

How to Be an Organ, Eye or Tissue Donor
If you wish to be a donor, it’s important to make your wishes known so that they may be carried out. You may make your wishes known in the following ways:

Register online. Register your organ, eye or tissue donation wishes at

Sign up through your driver’s licensing office. When you first get a driver’s license or renew, you can sign up to be a donor.

Share your decision. Let your family and friends know your donation wishes through advance care planning. Watch a free Valley webinar, Make Your Wishes Known: Advance Care Planning Workshop. Get more info and review free advance planning documents.

More information. Anyone can register, regardless of age, gender or medical history. Donors can specify what they wish to donate. Neither the donor nor the donor’s family assume any cost for the organ, eye or tissue donation. If you would like more information, call LCNW at 877.275.5269 for a donor information brochure.

About The Author

Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office