The People Who Inspire Us
Cascade Life Alliance is honored to work on behalf of those who choose selfless giving and those who accept the gift of life with tremendous gratitude and courage. We are continually inspired by the altruistic gift of life donors give to others; their families who think of strangers in need as they face personal tragedy; living donors who risk health and safety to save the life of another; and recipients who face each day with grace and appreciation.
Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls.~David Thomas
Choosing Love After a Tragedy
Susan Dieter-Robinson sat down with Cascade Life Alliance’s Family Resource Program Coordinator, to discuss the LoveRocks movement and what it means to her family, her girls and the legacy they left through organ donation.
Share Your Story
Organ, eye, and tissue donation is a profoundly unique experience and it is the personal stories shared by donor family members and recipients that give the rest of the world a glimpse at the heroes whose lives have been forever changed by donation. The following stories are just a few inspiring examples of the purest act of human kindness.
We would be honored to include your story if you are interested in sharing it with us.
Please use this link to submit your story.
(Letter to Cate’s organ recipients)
This is my extraordinary daughter, Dr. Cate (Catherine), a humanist, physician, and dynamo. Cate knew from a young age she wanted to do something big, and medical school became the natural choice for her. She loved humanity, loved her family and friends (and her dog) with a heart so big it radiated across distances of time and space.
Cate was a talented dancer as a child and young person, competing in regional competitions and always winning top honors. She continued to dance and perform as an undergraduate, but the rigors of medical education cut her dance career short. Every so often she would bust a move on the dance floor to the amazement of her colleagues, such was her gift and presence.
She gave many gifts to us. In addition to being incredibly intelligent, she had emotional intelligence. She never forgot to send a card and call a person on their birthday. She loved spoiling people with gifts and took her time choosing exactly the right one. She kept in touch with friends from pre-school days through med-school days. Any number of people said she was their “best friend” and meant it.
She loved music as well, attending numerous concerts and festivals. Her festival gear was a visual celebration of her artistry, whereas her usual attire was the epitome of class and style. She preferred French style and comfy athletic gear. She was dedicated to her fitness and nutrition, using regular exercise and vegan cuisine to maintain her health.
Quite honestly, we are at a complete loss without her, but gratified to know that you have allowed her great heart and energy to enrich your life as well. Be well, enjoy life, minimize stress. She would want the best for you, always.
Ryan was born in Oregon in October, 2004, into a big Catholic family, the second of six children. Ryan was born 10 days late; tardiness is a trend that would continue throughout his life. We remember him with a constant smile on his face almost from the day he was born. He immediately became the sidekick to his older brother by 2 years, Jack. Ryan’s sister and 3 younger brothers followed and he became their beloved big brother.
Ryan had recently graduated from high school and was looking forward to attending college in the fall. He loved the water – surfing behind the boat, in the river and in the ocean. He also loved cliff jumping and any other adventurous idea presented to him. He loved to ski, play lacrosse, lift weights, admire himself in the mirror and constantly brag about how he was the tallest in the family…He was a procrastinator, messy, and amazing. He was a friend to anyone he ever met, and a great brother, son, cousin, nephew and grandson. He had a twinkle in his eye always and was the life of every party.
The organ donation process was a source of great comfort as we dealt with Ryan’s accident and death. Knowing that this tragedy would somehow benefit the individuals and families who received his organs helped us to find some sort of purpose and meaning during this senseless situation.
We only hope that those whose lives have been or will be impacted know how much Ryan was loved – how strong he was and how missed he is as well. Our family, extended family and community is grieving, but we find peace knowing that he lives on in others.
Son, brother, grandson, nephew, friend—those are just a few of the most important roles Eric Engholm played in his short life. Eric was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa on December 31, 1997. His family settled in Oregon when he was four. As a kid, you’d find Eric hiking or camping with his family or his scout troop. As a teen, you’d find him on the wrestling mat, in the weight room, or on the football field with guys who became his lifelong friends. Family trips to the coast and Bend were always a highlight of summers and school breaks. Eric graduated from Sunset High School and earned his bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University. He worked at Columbia Sportswear—recently entering their leadership program. Standing 6’ 7”, Eric naturally commanded attention—but not just for his stature. He was a gentle giant with the heart, soul, and beard of a Viking. His love of fantasy fiction, video games, and anime stirred a vivid imagination and ultimately led to his creation of the Gilgamesh Trilogy. The First Offense: An Epic of Gilgamesh, was a huge point of pride when he published the e-book in 2021.
Early on the Engholms talked about the importance of organ and tissue donation, and Eric took this to heart and registered as an organ donor. On July 25th, 2022, Eric suffered a fall in a workplace accident. Unfortunately, they understood quickly that Eric would not survive the injuries. His family generously decided to take the path that would maximize the chances of successful organ and tissue donations. In their words “it’s the only way to get as much good as possible to come out of this terrible senseless event.” Eric’s selfless gesture to be an organ donor means this tragedy provides life-saving and meaningful gifts for up to 125 others in need. His parents were deeply touched by the compassionate team at Cascade Life Alliance that helped make this complex, emotional process possible. Read more about Eric at Love 4 Eric
Rylee was born on July 15, 2018 in Eastern Oregon. She was a beautiful, happy little girl who was full of smiles and laughter. Her parents, Autumn and Kyle, found her to be an easy baby, and both of her older brothers wanted to spend all of their time playing with her and helping to take care of her.
At the end of October 2018, Rylee was showing symptoms of a cold. She hadn’t been eating well, and so she was taken to the hospital to get checked out and be given some fluids. The next day, doctors decided that Rylee was no longer dehydrated, but she was exhibiting some weakness. They decided to run some tests, but before they could begin, Rylee went into cardiac arrest. Over 40 minutes, they resuscitated her, but she was unconscious.
Rylee and her mother, Autumn, were airlifted to a larger hospital where they received amazing care and love. One of the nurses told Autumn and Kyle that Rylee means courageous, so the family began praying for their Courageous Miracle. Unfortunately, Rylee did not recover and was eventually declared brain dead. Knowing the pain Autumn and Kyle were feeling over losing their daughter, they knew they wanted to help other families and prevent them from going through the same thing. They asked about organ donation so their Rylee could be a Courageous Miracle for someone else.
Autumn and Kyle knew that donating Rylee’s organs would be something precious for the recipients. However, what they found was that the organ donation process was very healing for them. Being able to help others while in the deepest sorrow helped dull the edge of that grief, just a little bit. It made that grief a little bit lighter and easier to carry. It brought them some peace.
Rylee’s family continues to honor her memory by promoting organ donation and collecting items that can be donated to the hospitals that cared for Rylee in hope that they might help other families feel the same love and compassion they felt while in the hospital.
|Elijah Edward Coe was born May 11, 1972, in the county of Kent, United Kingdom. He left this world on May 8, 2019, three days before his 47th birthday.
Elijah was a loving father to our 17 year old son, and loved it most when we were all together on a family camping trip, exploring all Oregon had to offer. We had many camping trips over our 21 years of marriage, and he was most happy when on a road trip, finding new places and making new memories with our family of three. Of course our pups were always along for the adventure!
Elijah was as cheeky as you could get, and there are so many stories that have been shared by people, quite literally, from all over the world. The common thread was the compassion he had for so many, always motivating them to do better, be better, and supporting them in finding their own journey in life.
He was an Executive Chef by trade, honing his skills in the British Royal Navy, creating amazing dishes for Officers, and even on the Royal Brittania, for the Royal Family. He traveled all over the world, learning about different cultures and cooking techniques. He left it all behind, to marry me and move to New York City, where we began our life together. I am not sure his mother ever forgave me for taking her British son away to America!
We moved to Texas, which he loved immensely, right before our son was born. We made many great friends, however my heart was not settled and needed to be closer to family in Washington. I don’t think he ever forgave me for leaving Texas, but he knew it was what I needed, and put our son and I first. We moved to Portland 7 years later, both offered jobs in a city we fell in love with. Portland was the only place we are all agreed upon and equally loved. We were so happy here, and just starting to establish our roots when he died.
He was riding his motorcycle, when someone did not stop at a stop sign, forcing him into another lane, and crashed head on with another car. He was wearing a helmet and body armor, it still was not enough. He was in a coma until we had to remove him from life support (his wish), and never really had the chance to say goodbye.
His final gift was to donate all of his organs and tissue to research. Before the procedure, all of the doctors and nurses lined the hall in honor of our dear Elijah. It was both heartbreaking and moving, but also gave us strength in knowing by fulfilling Elijah’s wishes, he was saving the lives of others.
Jamie was born on August 10th 1995 and passed away on June 9th 2018.
He was the youngest of our three chidren, he was only 22 when he was one of three young men killed in a motor vechile crash caused by a distracted, intoxicated driver in Portland Oregon.
He lived life to the fullest. He never was one to sit around wondering what if, he just did it. Jamie loved music and taught himself the guitar and keyoard. He also spoke a little German.
Jamie started work at the age of 11 working in a $2 shop with his 2 older sisters. He left school after getting an apprenticeship as a motor vehicle mechanic. After finishing his apprenticeship Jamie wanted to see the world, so at the age of 21 he left home and worked as a mechanic at different motor vechile companys. He then decided to head to the Netherlands to become a high tech engineer with a large international company.
He had visited Germany, England, Netherlands, Bali, Indoneasia, and had worked in 4 of these countries in his short 22 years.
At the time of the crash he was living the dream, and had met the love of his life who he had been in a relationship with for 2 years.
Jamie suffered a catastrophic brain injury during the crash. He died two days later, fortunately we had had the conservation with Jamie about organ donation, he was a registered organ donor.
Jamie donated his heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas, tissue from his lungs and small intestines were used for research.
This has been a true comfort to our family, espeacilly having direct contact with his liver and heart recipients. Recently we meet Jamie’s heart recipient and got to listen to his heart keeping someone else alive!
Jamie touched so many lives and continues to do so even though he has gone.
REST IN PEACE OUR BEAUTIFUL BOY
“Kenny was 34 years old and was one of the sweetest and kindest people you would ever want to meet. He was my baby and one of my best friends. Kenny was an amazing artist, selling some of his work at Comic Con and many of us were lucky enough to receive his works of art for birthday and Christmas gifts. He had several tattoos and also was a tattoo artist, giving me the 2 I have. If you ask anyone who knew him what he is known for, they would tell you kindness. He had the word kindness tattooed across his knuckles. When I asked why he did that and his answer was simple, “I’m gonna kill ém with kindness”. Kenny loved hiking, floating down a river, camping, being in the outdoors, drawing, painting, and spending time with friends and family. He loved all kinds of music. He would sometimes sing karaoke; he loved going to see live music, and was very proud of his vinyl record collection. He was an avid reader and loved movies. He had a vast book and movie collection as well. Kenny suffered with depression during the last 4 years of his short life and sadly, it got the best of him in June of 2016. He wanted to be an organ donor and his gifts saved 3 lives. I have written to and received letters back from the 3 men whose lives he saved. Their letters touched my heart knowing that Kenny is still alive in them. One day I hope to meet these men. The people at Pacific Northwest Transplant Bank are simply the best. They are angels; it takes a very special kind of person to do their job. I will be forever grateful to them.”
Juan Salazar, who was known as Jay, overcame a lot of challenges early in his young life. He had exhibited symptoms of anxiety, and at age 13, he was diagnosed with depression. With treatment and strong support from his family, Jay achieved what his mother, Norma, calls a “new beginning.” He went back to school, spent time with his family, and hung out with his friends at the park where they would skateboard. One day, while watching a TV show with his mom that mentioned organ donation, Jay told his mom that if he could, one day, he would like to be a donor to help someone who needed it.
May 26, 2016 changed the Salazar family forever. Jay, then just 16-years-old, was in an accident at the park where he and his friends were riding their skateboards. Three days later, Jay’s parents honored his desire to help those people who needed organ donations to survive.
For Norma and her family, this has not been easy. Jay’s parents and three sisters miss him, but remembering that Jay gave the gift of life gives them courage to continue, knowing that Jay is living in each one of those recipients. The Salazars have received letters from two of those recipients – his liver recipient and one of his kidney recipients. Norma says, “For me, it is important to share what my son wanted to do for others, and I think that helps me feel a little better.” She remains in contact with the Latina woman who received Jay’s kidney and says, “I was glad to know that the person who received Juan’s kidney can have a better life. Knowing that her body accepted my son’s kidney made me very happy.”
Two mothers, on opposite ends of an emotional organ donation journey, meet for the first time in this Emmy Winning News Feature for Donate Life Northwest by KOIN TV. Watch video
Almost seven years ago a doctor said to me, “I suspect you will need a liver transplant one day.” I never thought it would be this soon – for years I felt fine. Then one day, things changed for the worse. Another doctor would confirm that my liver was failing, and we needed to focus on getting on the transplant list, soon. I will never forget that day, the day it was confirmed. I was slowly dying. There was no cure or special drug I could take, my only chance was to get my name added to the transplant list, and hope that a liver would become available. I told myself, I was going to fight with all that I have; I want to beat this.
Some months went by, and my health continued to depreciate. I had many close calls requiring many trips to the emergency room, and then one day right after what should have been an outpatient procedure, a small team of doctors would say to me, “you won’t be going home” ; in fact, I was told that I would not be leaving the hospital until I received a liver. I was smart enough to know the alternative; they didn’t need to tell me.
So, there I was, day after day, wondering if I would wake up tomorrow and get to see my family again. My health continued to decline, and I was becoming weaker each day. However, I always found enough strength to run to the window of my hospital room when I heard the engine of that Life Flight helicopter. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was delivering a special gift for me.
Just as I thought things were bad enough, things got even worse, and I found myself being rushed to ICU; I was in big trouble. Thank God for miracle credits, I cashed in two that night. A few days later, I knew my body was finished; tired of fighting – I could feel it. I didn’t enter this fight to quit; rather, I would continue to fight even though this may be one fight I would not win. Something told me it had to be decided within the week.
A few days later, I received the most important call of my life; a liver was available, and it was PERFECT for me!! After shedding several tears and confirming this wasn’t just a dream, I contacted my wife to share the exciting news. Later that day an amazing team of medical professionals at OHSU would do what they do best, perform a lifesaving transplant surgery. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks; somewhere, an Angel was preparing for their journey to heaven, but before her wings would take her away she would give (gift) me a lifesaving organ and become my Hero. And, because of her, I now would get another chance, a second chance to live.
Every day, I think of my Angel Hero, Melissa Cranston Thorne, and I am happy to say that her family and mine are bonded for life. I know how blessed I am to be here today, and I will never forget. And, to the incredible staff at OHSU, and I mean every one of you, keep doing what you do best, and STAY AMAZING!!
The Second-Chance Club Official Member