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‘Donate Life,’ Ascension represented at Mount Everest Base Camp, thanks to Ascension Via Christi respiratory therapist

Allan Thomas is a well-traveled outdoorsman and mountaineer.

He’s visited the highest peaks in several continents — Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Everest in Asia, Denali in North America and Mount Elbrus in Europe. His treks include Mount Machu Picchu in Peru and the Patagonia region of South America.

“I love to travel and see new things,” says Thomas, Respiratory Care manager for Ascension Via Christi in Wichita. “Not knowing anyone or a language barrier can be a challenge, but it shouldn't completely dissuade a person from traveling to a new place.

Mount Everest beckoned him again last year.

“If you like mountain ranges, it’s one of the best in the world,” Thomas says. “Nepal is one of the best places I’ve ever been and the people are some of the friendliest I’ve ever met.”

For this Himalayan adventure in October 2019, Allan took something of special significance to the Base Camp 17,600 feet above sea level.

He brought a flag with the Donate Life organ, eye and tissue donation logo and Midwest Transplant Network’s name and another flag with Ascension’s name and logo to add to the colorful Tibetan prayer flags strung along the trails and peaks of Everest Base Camp.

It’s said that Himalayans believe that when winds blow the prayer flags, they carry the blessings, good will and compassion embodied in their images and writings across the land.

“I wanted to represent Midwest Transplant Network and the work they do,” Thomas says. “It was an opportunity to bring awareness and to honor donors, recipients and the Transplant Honor Walks we have at Ascension Via Christi.”

The Transplant Honor Walk program at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis began in fall 2018. It's undertaken as a final act of respect given in recognition of donor heroes and their families — those who have chosen to give the gift of life through organ, eye and tissue donation to benefit others who are waiting for help.

When a patient becomes a donor at St. Francis and the date and time for the surgery is set, internal notification is made. The donor patient and their family are escorted from the unit to the OR. Hospital associates line the hallways standing silently, demonstrating support in a final act of compassion, care and closure.

“God touched my heart and it’s my privilege to be involved,” says Thomas, who brought the idea of the Honor Walk to Ascension Via Christi. “We would love to have more associates join us. We’re especially in need of more associates for evening and weekend Honor Walks.”

Any more hiking trips planned?

“There’s always more mountain ranges to do,” Thomas says.

About Melissa Lacey

Kansas born; mother of two; communications professional for Ascension Via Christi.