“Donate Life Month” celebrated in Great Falls

Posted at 3:50 PM, Apr 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-19 17:50:57-04

April is National Donate Life Month, and to celebrate, Benefis Health System and LifeCenter Northwest set up a booth to promote organ donation.

“I want people to get that message that when you are losing a loved one, something good can come out of that,” Derrek Shepherd said.

But today was not just about handing out cake and keychains. It was about honoring those who have passed on.

“The fact you or a loved one are going to pass, you have the potential to save lives. And that’s true, I’ve seen it. People’s lives are changed and dramatically improved, it’s a great program,” Shepherd said.

It was nearly a year ago, Derrek’s life change forever. He lost his 17-year-old daughter and had to make a decision.

“I mean you are here at the hospital and you think everything is going to be fine. You’re going to be home in a couple of days. To start talking about that you have to open your mind to the fact that they might not make it,” Shepherd said.

His daughter was able to save and improve many people’s lives.

“Our daughter Julie, she gave both lungs, her heart, kidneys, corneas, skin, I mean she gave a lot,” Shepherd said.

LifeCenter Northwest has been partnering with Benefis for years.

Montana has the highest percentage of registered organ donors of any state. 90% of people eighteen and older are registered.

“I think what’s important is just understanding that the care that you get at the hospital does not change whether you are a registered donor or not. Donation only comes when there are no other options to save your life,” Nicole Weiher of LifeCenter Northwest Regional Hospital said.

One story comes to Derrek’s mind specifically. His daughter was able to give her heart to another little girl.

“Although it was a loss, it was something positive that came out of that loss,” Shepherd said.

“I think the thing that’s most important to realize is that were coming to a family in one of the darkest most tragic moments of their life. But we are offering them something really great. We are offering them the option of a living legacy,” Weiher said.

If you wish to become an organ donor, you can do so by clicking here, or visiting your local DMV

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