Donor gives gift of mobilityPublished 10:33pm Tuesday, May 7, 2013
When most people think “organ donation,” they think of kidneys or other internal organs. But for Suffolk’s Jennifer Finch, skin from a cadaver has helped overcome an old injury that recently flared up in a big way.
When the energetic 35-year-old mother was a teenager, she suffered a knee injury on a family ski vacation.
After getting it looked at, “I went back to normal life; but I continued to have problems with my knee,” she said.
Last May, Finch had surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament — commonly known as the ACL — a procedure involving tissue donated from a cadaver.
She recalled the experience as a guest speaker at LifeNet Health’s annual In Celebration and Remembrance ceremony, held in Virginia Beach on Sunday.
LifeNet, which provides organ-donation and tissue-banking services, facilitated Finch’s tissue donation.
“The ACL gives your knee the stability you need to run, jump and climb ladders,” Finch, who runs a mural-painting business, told the audience.
“Without that support, there was no way I could continue doing my business … and all the other activities I love.”
Her injury had flared several times, including after falling when she was eight months pregnant with her second daughter; but Finch finally decided to have the surgery when her knee “gave way” while standing on a ladder and painting.
“My husband was always telling me to go get it looked at,” she said recently. “When I fell off the ladder, that’s when I thought I needed to go.”
Identities of donors, who register their intent with the DMV to become donors in the event of death, generally remain anonymous.
Finch said she was “fascinated with the idea that somebody’s body part was in me. They didn’t tell me any details,” but LifeNet arranged for her to email a message to her donor’s family.
“Words cannot express my gratitude for the gracious gift your loved one has given me,” Finch wrote the family. “I will now be able to continue to ride horses, run half-marathons and keep up with my two young girls.
“I am forever grateful to have received such a precious gift that otherwise would have left my life unfulfilled.”
Finch said she no longer feels like her knee is going to give way. She said she made great strides during the physical therapy that followed the surgery. “I had a full range of motion within a couple of weeks,” she said.
“I feel a renewed energy that I never felt before.”
To learn more about donating, visit www.donatelifevirginia.org.