Heart recipient, donor family, reunited during Gift of Hope Honor Walk at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus - December 23, 2019

Courtesy of NWI Life

Written by Sergio Valdes

“This is an opportunity to rewrite tragic stories.”

These words continuously rang out during the Gift of Hope Honor Walk at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus. Honor Walks are typically held on the day the organ donation takes place, before a donor’s organ recovery. These events are an opportunity for family members, loved ones, and medical staff to pay respect to the generous gifts that donors and donors’ families offer to those waiting for life-saving and life-enhancing organ and tissue transplants.

On August of 2017, Tavontae Allen, a 23-year-old man, suffered an asthma attack and passed away at Methodist Hospital’s Northlake Campus. His grieving family generously offered his organs for donation, saving the lives of four other people in need of transplants. One of those people, Shelecta “Shey” Weldy received his heart.

“This has been an overwhelming and breathtaking journey,” said Takisha Ross, Tavontae’s mother. “I was able to lay my hand on his heart through Shey, and it gave me a sense of life again. I feel like I can let him rest now.”

“It’s been a long journey for all of us,” said Shey Weldy, recipient of Tavontae’s heart. “This is the best I’ve felt in over a decade. I just want to say thank you to Tavontae and his family for everything. He is living on in a positive way: through me.”

After the Honor Walk, there was a brief program to pay tribute to the selfless gifts offered by Tavontae and Shey’s gratitude. They were given flowers and memorial lamps with family and friends there for support and remembrance.

“Today was all about showing what donation means and how much it means to save the life of somebody else,” said Sheila Pochron, Director of Critical Care Services for Methodist Hospitals. “This was the most rewarding experience of my entire career. I am privileged to be a part of this and to represent Methodist Hospitals here today.”

Gift of Hope is a not-for-profit organ procurement organization that coordinates organ and tissue donation and provides public education on donation in Northwest Indiana and Illinois. Since 1986, they have saved the lives of more than 23,000 organ transplant recipients and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of tissue transplant recipients.

“Gift of Hope was the conduit for these two families meeting,” said Renata Krzyston, Supervisor of Donor Family Services and Community Outreach for Gift of Hope. “It is amazing when you realize that you are helping people on their journey. We are blessed to be able to do what we do and witness it all.”

For more information about Gift of Hope, their mission, and how to get involved, please visit www.giftofhope.org.