Quilt a reminder of life-saving organ donation

The Threads of Life quilt is on display at the Hermiston DMV this week.

A quilt on display at the Hermiston DMV this week is a reminder of the life-saving power of organ donation.

Phil Weitz of Hermiston had his life saved by a heart transplant, and he is one of the people featured on the quilt, part of a program called “Threads of Life.”

“I had a heart transplant six years ago, and I’ve never lost passion for awareness of what people can do,” he said.

Each square on the quilt represents an organ recipient from Oregon. Donate Life Northwest, which encourages organ donation in the Pacific Northwest, gathers stories and photos for a quilt each year and then sends the quilt on a tour around Oregon and southwest Washington to remind people they can potentially save eight lives through organ donation. The quilt also comes with a book of stories about those featured on the quilt.

Weitz’s life-saving moment came in 2012, when at age 56 he had a heart attack. He called 9-1-1 to report he had trouble breathing, and woke up at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane needing a battery-powered pump to keep his heart going. Almost two months later he was able to receive the heart of a 50-year-old farm worker from California who died after falling and hitting his head at work.

The ordeal changed his life, Weitz said. He made new friends, including the daughter of his organ donor, the medical professionals who cared for him and the fellow organ recipients that he has met through support groups in the area. He said he is working on convincing some of his other recipients to join his crusade to educate people about organ donation, and some of them have appeared in recent parades, including the Umatilla County Fair parade and the Pendleton Round-Up Dress-Up parade.

“A lot of people, I think they’re proud, but also shy,” he said.

Weitz isn’t shy about talking about his gratitude for his heart and about the importance of organ donation. He said 120,000 people in the country are waiting for one of the eight life-saving organs a person can give — lungs, kidneys, liver, intestines and pancreas.

“Twenty people die a day waiting for life-saving organs,” he said. “I waited six weeks.”

To learn more about organ donation or to register as a potential organ donor, visit donatelifenw.org. You can also register at the DMV or call 1-800-452-1369 to request a paper form. Anyone older than 13 can register.


Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.

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