Orlando Health, TransLife, and GR8 to DON8 celebrate Donate Life Month with ceremony and unique, interactive artwork dedication

Special ceremony honor donors, and recipients and helps build awareness for the gift of life.

Orlando, FL (April 5, 2019) – Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) celebrated National Donate Life Month with a ceremony and unique, interactive artwork dedication to honor organ, tissue and eye donors, and celebrate the gift of life, and build awareness about donation. The event was held Thursday, April 4, at ORMC.

Donor families and recipients joined ORMC team members, representatives from TransLife — east Central Florida’s federally designated organ and tissue service, and GR8 to DON8 — a not for profit organization to raise awareness and support for organ and tissue donation education in Central Florida, for the ceremony.

The ceremony included remarks from ORMC, TransLife and GR8 to DON8 representatives. Speakers highlighted the importance of organ, tissue and eye donation and recognized donors, donor families and recipients.

In 2018, more than 36,500 transplants brought renewed life to patients and their families and

communities, and each year there are approximately 30,000 tissue donors and more than 1.75 million tissue transplants, according to Donate Life America (DLA). More than 110,000 men, women and children await lifesaving organ transplants, and sadly, 8,000 people die each year (on average 22 people each day — almost one person each hour) because the organs they need are not donated in time, according to DLA. Also, 48,000 patients have their sight restored through corneal transplants each year, according to DLA.

Speakers also shared messages demonstrating the impact of donation. Organ, tissue and eye donation adds gifts of birthdays, graduations, wedding days, family gatherings, time, and other memories to the many lives it touches.

The ceremony also featured an interactive artwork dedication. The Wall of Heroes is interactive art to honor organ, tissue and eye donors, and the amazing and courageous act of donation and transplantation; to educate the population about the significance of donation, as well as dispel myths and misconceptions; and to inspire people to choose donation.

The Wall of Heroes was an idea realized from the collaboration of the three organizations as a way to honor those who give the gift of life, hence heroes.

“It is important to have a physical space that donor family members, clinicians, and recipients can go to reflect upon and honor the gift of life.  The Wall of heroes also serves as a tool to educate and inspire others about the ripple effect of donation,” said Jayne Willis, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CENP, chief nursing executive, vice president nursing, Orlando Health. “We hope that each person will walk away with something different. Perhaps someone will be called to action to become a designated organ donor, others may feel peace in knowing that their loved one gave the gift of life, recipients may feel deep gratitude, and clinicians involved with donation can be proud that they were able to make a difference.  That’s the beauty of the wall, its purpose changes to meet the needs of whoever interacts with it.”

The Wall of Heroes uses audio, visual, and touch screen elements to tell the story of organ, tissue and eye donation. The interactive artwork includes sections with biographies of donors, recipients, Orlando Health team members touched by donation, and the artists who helped create the project.

“We hope that the sound of flowing water and the gentle movement of the artwork will encourage visitors and staff to interact with the wall and learn about the ripple effect of donation,” said Debbie Alexander, BSN, MS, donor program specialist, Translife Organ and Tissue Donation Services. “That is what we call it when one person receives an organ or tissue donation and that affects his life, his family, friends, coworkers, and the community. The artwork depicts a drop of water (representing one donor) going into a pool of water and creating eight ripples (one for each life that can be saved by one donor).”

The ceremony also recognized Jeffrey Sadowsky, MD, for his longstanding commitment to building donation awareness. Dr. Sadowsky, critical care specialist, Orlando Health, and founder, GR8 to DON8, led the 10-year vision for the Wall of Heroes to its reality as a place to memorialize the heroes who gave the gift of life at the end of their lives.

“It’s very common for a community to honor firefighters, law enforcement officers and individuals for their lifesaving efforts with plaques or certificates, and rightfully so,” said Dr. Sadowsky. “One donor can save up to eight lives. It’s significant. However, often times, families of donors leave the hospital with only a clear bag with their loved ones’ belongings. I wanted there to be more. The wall is a place for family members to memorialize their loved ones and to see them alive, as they were before, and to see their story. Family members, loved ones and other are also able to see the lives saved and what the recipients are doing with their new life. It’s a place of tribute, the ripple effect.”

The painting element of the Wall of Heroes is called “The Odyssey.”

“The painting is called ‘The Odyssey’ because of incredible experience that begins with donation,” said Julie DeStefano Shahen, artist, the Wall of Heroes. “There are two sides to the donation: that of the donor and donor family, and that of the recipient. As a patient, there is the hope that you’ll be listed on the national transplant registry -- despite that your opportunity at life means tragedy for another. When the call comes that the transplant team locates a match: It’s simultaneously so many emotions that it leaves one breathless. It’s an experience in extremes. ”

The Wall of Heroes also has special meaning for members of the project team who were also recipients.

“As a recipient I made a promise that if I ever was to get better, I would do as much as I can to pay it forward,” said Darren Sussman, project team coordinator, Wall of Heroes. “I know how important it is to honor those who have given the gift of life. It has been a complete honor to be part of the project. After reading donor stories and interviewing recipients, I appreciate life even more.”

“As transplant recipients, this project was exceptionally meaningful to Darren and I,” said Shahen. “It resonates to an especially deep place in my heart knowing we helped give a memorial to families that have helped others. And that is, to me, The Ripple Effect at work. “

Intermedia Touch, a digital signage agency, designed the Wall of Heroes, incorporating “The Odyssey” artwork and a customized application to create a state-of-the-art interactive experience.

“The Wall of Heroes is more than just a display,” said Cristina Miller, CEO, Intermedia Touch. “It is an interactive experience that has been installed using a dramatic 75-inch touch screen monitor, displaying a customized application that acknowledges those who have heroically donated, monumentally benefiting the lives of those who rely on such donations. The project honors donors and provides a place of memorial for families, while also serving as an educational experience to inspire action on behalf of the viewer. We are extremely pleased with the endeavor and to have been given the opportunity to work with such a worthy mission that aims to recognize a truly inspirational cause through an initiative that changes lives for the better.”

The Wall of Heroes at Orlando Regional Medical Center was displayed in January. It was officially presented and dedicated during the ceremony.

About Orlando Health

Orlando Health is a $3.4 billion not-for-profit healthcare organization and a community-based network of hospitals, physician practices and outpatient care centers across Central Florida. The organization is home to the area’s only Level One Trauma Centers for adults and pediatrics, and is a statutory teaching hospital system that offers both specialty and community hospitals. More than 2,900 physicians have privileges across the system, which is also one of the area’s largest employers with more than 20,000 employees who serve more than 112,000 inpatients, more than 2.4 million outpatients, and more than 10,000 international patients each year.  Additionally, Orlando Health provides more than $450 million in total value to the community in the form of charity care, community benefit programs and services, community building activities and more. Additional information can be found at

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