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Transplant Honor Walk recognizes donor heroes on final journey to OR

Transplant Honor Walk

It’s a weekday morning at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita.

Notice has gone out and the call has been heard.

Hundreds of Ascension Via Christi associates from across all departments and floors of the Level 1 Trauma Center have lined the third-floor halls leading from a patient’s room in the Intensive Care Unit to the entrance of the Operating Room.

The associates have gathered for a Transplant Honor Walk. It's the 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.

The time has come.

The donor patient and their family are escorted from the ICU, accompanied by Surgical Services, Respiratory Care, Nursing and Midwest Transplant Network team members. The group makes its way, turning down five hallways to the OR.

Each step of the way, associates stand silently in tribute to this patient and family. Leaders and frontline associates, chaplains, Nursing staff and students, Security officers, Rehabilitation and Laboratory staff, social workers, health unit clerks, office staff, countless Surgery associates and many others are present. They demonstrate support for the family in a final act of compassion, care and closure.

Ascension Via Christi’s Transplant Honor Walk began with an idea in fall of 2018. Inspired by programs at other hospitals around the country, Allan Thomas, Respiratory Care manager, brought the desire forward to Ascension Via Christi’s Wichita hospitals leadership. Met with enthusiastic support, an implementation team quickly came together and in partnership with Midwest Transplant Network, the first Honor Walk at St. Francis took place in November 2018.

When a patient becomes a donor at St. Francis and the date and time for the surgery is set, internal notification is made through various ways including by page, email, text, word of mouth, etc.

“We would love to have more associates join us,” Thomas says. “We’re especially in need of more associates for evening and weekend Honor Walks. We ask people to be a good teammate and cover for your co-worker who wants to go.”

The Honor Walk process continues to be refined, says Melanie Northcutt, Respiratory Care specialist. Organizers have enhanced communications to alert more staff of upcoming Honor Walks and are developing cards to give to families and friends visiting other patients in the unit so they understand what is happening when they see people starting to gather. 

“The Philanthropy Department has graciously given us a grant to purchase supplies for the Honor Walk,” says Northcutt. “We plan to purchase battery-powered tea lights staff can hold during the walk to help create the respectful and reverent atmosphere for the patient and family. We are also looking at purchasing flags that could be presented to donors who are veterans.”  

The grant was made possible by the generosity of associates who gave to the "area of greatest need" in One Community, the annual joint fundraising campaign for Ascension Via Christi Philanthropy and United Way of the Plains.

The goal of the Honor Walk is to have as many associates as possible line the hallways as the donor hero is escorted from the ICU to the entrance of the OR, says Thomas.

“It is an amazing and humbling experience,” he says.

Photo is from a Transplant Honor Walk in 2019.

[VIDEO added January 2020] In the early morning hours of May 18, 2019, hundreds stood in tribute to Madisen Carr and her family during her Transplant Honor Walk at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis in Wichita. Thank you to the Carr family for sharing this precious moment with us.

About Melissa Lacey

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