"Wall of Heroes" honors lifesaving donors

Greg and Deb Pouliot always worried their son Jeff's daring behavior would get him into trouble.

"We were always afraid, Debby and I, because of his risk-taking that some day we were going to get a call," said Greg.  "We just knew it."

On October 13, 2006 they did get a call, one they didn’t see coming.

“They said that he had, in his sleep, had a stroke, a massive stroke” said Greg.

At 34 years old, Jeff had a brain hemorrhage that left irreparable damage, but the rest of his body was in good condition, making him an ideal candidate for organ donation.

“Not only did Jeff have it on his license, but he had talked to all of us about it, and so we were grateful that we heard it from his lips, you know, that it was something he wanted to do,” said Deb.  “So it was not a hard decision for us at all.”

It was a decision that saved LeRoy Wegscheid’s life.

“I had congestive heart failure for 20 years and I had four heart attacks,” said LeRoy, “and it got to the point where it was no good.”

LeRoy was on a transplant list for five months when he got the call about Jeff’s heart.

“There's no words to describe it,” said LeRoy. “I'm so grateful for the second chance I got.”

Jeff and LeRoy’s story is just one of many that start at North Memorial Medical Center.  According to the hospital’s director of urgent and emergent care, North Memorial usually sees about 20 to 25 organ donors and several hundred tissue and eye donors a year. 

This week, North Memorial becomes the first hospital in the state to pay tribute to donors with a memorial called the Wall of Heroes. The memorial is made up of photos of 126 of the donors who came through the hospital’s doors. Jeff’s picture is among them. 

In addition to giving his heart, Jeff donated his pancreas, liver, both kidneys, his skin, bone, tendon and both eyes. His lungs went to research.

“It really helped us in the grieving process because it was something to be happy for,” said Greg.

Jeff’s parents and LeRoy all say they hope the wall shows others the faces behind the donors’ generous gifts and that donation is truly worth it. 

“My daughter said, ‘Well, Mom, our prayers weren't answered, but those other families' prayers were answered.  You know, Jeff was the answer to their prayers,” said Deb.

You can register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor by indicating it on your driver’s license or online at www.donatelifemn.org.

Renee Banot

April 17, 2013


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