Organ donors remembered in flag-raising ceremony

by Hennepin Healthcare

The decision to become an organ donor is one of the most thoughtful ways someone can continue their giving spirit after they’ve passed away. At a flag-raising ceremony at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) on Monday, April 2, the families of Kandyce Bryanna Stoffel and Christopher Lee Spears were joined by doctors, nurses, administrative staff, and other caregivers and friends to remember patients and loved ones who made the decision to donate organs  after death.

Shining on… 

Stoffel, a graduate of Mankato West High School, was a student at the University of Minnesota who was walking with some friends around a construction barricade when the group was struck by a vehicle. She was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, but was unable to survive due to her multiple traumatic injuries. She passed away on October 24, 2010.

Her mom and stepdad, Patty and Randy Appel, and her sister and brother-in-law, Karissa and Christopher Baukol attended the flag-raising ceremony.

“Kandyce had her entire life ahead of her. She was only one class shy of graduating from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in kinesiology,” explains Patty Appel. “But unfortunately a drunk driver took all those dreams away from a precious 23-year-old and her family.”

Stoffel was able to donate five life-saving organs – her heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas, as well as her eyes and other tissues — thanks to her decision to be an organ donor.

Appel has been in contact with some of the recipients of her daughter’s organs, including “Jennifer,” who received her heart.  Appel attended Jennifer’s wedding last year. “I knew that would be the only wedding I’d see that heart in,” she said.

“During the reception, the groom’s father said a prayer for Kandyce and our family and asked us to stand. The guests gave a standing ovation — what an emotional time for everyone. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the entire ballroom. If we could have picked a person to receive Kandyce’s heart, it would have been Jennifer.”

Spears, an 18-year-old Senior at Hutchinson High School, was also in a car crash. He passed away on March 2, 2010.

“He chose to be an organ donor because it fit his personality and drive to help others out,” explained his mom, Luann Spears. “He didn’t think twice about it.  In fact,  ‘Well, duh!’ was his response when he passed his driver’s test and was answering questions about organ donation.”

Prior to the removal of Spears’ organs, the family asked the operating room staff involved in the organ procurement if they would sing “You are My Sunshine” during the surgery.  The OR staff honored this wish and sang to him during the procedure.

“When my kids were babies, I used to always sing ‘You are My Sunshine’ to them,” says Luann Spears, who attended the flag-raising ceremony with her surviving children Tiffany, Jennifer and Jamey.  “When Christopher was on life support, I just started singing it again and told him he would continue to shine through all of the people who would be helped because of his donation.”

Like Stoffel, his corneas, kidneys and liver tissue and heart valve are now “shining” through the lives of others.

Stoffel’s mom, Patty Appel and Spears’ mom, Luann raised the flag in honor of their children and all of the other organ donors in celebration of Donate Life month.

There are currently more than 110,000 men, women, and children in the United States waiting for a life-saving transplant. More than 3,000 of these individuals live in the Upper Midwest.