Chester River Hospital Center
Recent News

Local Women Speak Out
for Increased Organ Donations

Catharine "Kitty" Neff and Nancy Orr who, along with their families, have made the decision for a loved one to become an organ or tissue donor, participated in state and national events designed to bring attention to the importance of organ and tissue donation.

At a Ceremony of Remembrance sponsored by the Transplant Resource Center of Maryland, Neff, nurse manager of the emergency department at Chester River Hospital Center, spoke of her family’s decision to honor her mother’s wishes to become a donor. Joanne Walbert Bigelow, Neff’s mother who died in July of 1998, became a soft tissue donor. Skin, bone, veins, soft tissues, heart valves, corneas, and eyes are tissues that can be donated.

Orr was a member of a panel that addressed the topic of being a professional nurse dealing with transplant on a personal level at the National Donor Recognition Ceremony and Workshop held in Washington, D.C. Her comments and thoughts came from the death of her brother, Larry Pearce, in the summer of 1997 and the family’s decision that he should become an organ donor. She works as the nurse manager of the ambulatory care unit at the local hospital where she had been instrumental in the development of the Hospital’s routine referral program associated with the Transplant Resource Center of Maryland before her brother’s death.

Ms. Catharine "Kitty" Neff and Ms. Nancy Orr.

Both events were held as part of National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week in April.

The need for donated organs and tissues grows each day. Currently there are more 2,300 people in Maryland who are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Nationally, more than 61,000 people are awaiting such transplants – approximately twelve people die each day across the country while waiting for the Gift of Life. Demand is increased by medical and technological research that continually finds new ways to use donated organs and tissues to improve or save lives.

Orr emphasizes that a family discussion about organ and tissue donation is extremely important before there is a need to decide if a loved one should become a donor. "During the discussion, you should learn how each person feels about becoming a donor. With this knowledge, you can help assure that your relatives' or your own wishes are carried out. Keep in mind that the donation is always discussed with the next of kin and even with a signed donor card or registration with the Motor Vehicle Administration on a driver's license, a family can say no. Because a family must give consent before donation, they must be aware of the desire to be a donor."

Both Neff and Orr, who are registered nurses, state that a signed donor card will not affect the level of medical care received at a hospital. The goal of medical care is always directed at what is best to preserve life. The doctor who declares death is never the one to recover organs and tissues. A person can only be considered a candidate for donation if they have been legally declared dead according to state law.

"There is no cost to the donor family for organ/tissue recovery related charges," Neff notes. " The family’s obligation for medical expenses ends when the patient is legally declared dead." In Maryland, the Transplant Resource Center of Maryland begins to assume all cost once the decision for donation is made.

Both women, and their families, have found that the donations have helped ease their grief. Knowing there are five children whose fathers are still living and sharing their children’s lives because of Orr’s bother and that two people now have sight because of Neff’s mother, stands as a memorial to their loved ones’ lives. Families often find healing in honoring a loved one's wishes to become a donor or in making the decision that a loved one should become one.

For more information, or a free donor card, contact the Transplant Resource Center of Maryland, (800) 641-HERO (4376) or visit their web site at