LifeNet Health and Healing the Spirit are registered trademarks of LifeNet Health, Inc.

SUMMER  2014

DecadesDonor Families through the Decades: 2000-2010 

Profiles of LifeNet Health donor families over the past four decades. We hope their stories will inspire.


Matters of the Heart

Bam Bam
Catherine Lamb: An Angel with an Everlasting Smile


Her family called her Bam-Bam. She loved doing hair and nails. She loved life. Catherine Lamb was a heart

transplant recipient and beloved friend to many.

She bowled for Team Virginia at the Transplant Games. Then she became a tissue donor after her death in 2004.


A decade later, Catherine's cousin Davaline Perry spoke of her cousin's legacy. "Bam and I are first cousins. Our mothers were sisters. We became more than cousins. We were sisters too."


In the early '90s, Catherine waited 18 months for a heart to become available for a needed transplant. Yet she tried to live a normal life. She took care of her nieces, nephews and her grandmother, whom she adored.


On September 10, 1991, a family made the selfless decision to donate their loved one's organs. Catherine received the heart she had been waiting for. She became the 37th heart recipient at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.


She never took her new heart for granted. After the surgery, Catherine soon began speaking publicly about her donor, their family, and her gratitude. Not long after her transplant, Catherine began work at Norfolk General's Heart Hospital as a receptionist. There, she greeted patients going through similar procedures and wait times that she had endured.


"Bam would tell it like it is, no sugar coating the situations," recalls Davaline. "Bam had a way of easing patients' fears, letting them know what was in store for them, and reassuring them they would be just fine." Her smile became a fixture in the Heart Hospital.


When her beloved Bam-Bam died, Davaline had the words An Angel with an Everlasting Smile engraved on Catherine's headstone.


Her family assumed that because of her transplant and all the medications she was on, Catherine was not a candidate for donation. "Little did we know she had already made arrangements to become a tissue donor," explained Davaline. "We were thrilled she could become a donor."


Although the family didn't have to make the decision to donate, Davaline says they would have without a second thought. "Bam decided if she could help anyone else in any way, then she wanted to be a donor."


The International Black Women's Congress created an award to remember Bam's legacy. The Catherine Lamb Matters of the Heart Award honors donor families, nurses, doctors, and others involved in organ donation.


On being a donor family member for 10 years, Devaline offered some words of advice for those who are new to their grief journey. "Cherish your memories of your loved one. Take comfort in knowing their donation gave someone else the gift of life." She recommends that if people feel comfortable, they should go into their community and talk about their loved one and the lives they changed.

HealingTearsHealing Tears by Dr. Lani Leary



Dear Dr. Lani,

My family donated our son's organs and tissue after his unexpected accident and death. We trust and are comforted that many transplants were successful and saved many other people's lives.


Being able to pass on the gift of life has impacted our lives and softened our grief. But we repeatedly are asked by neighbors and friends about who the recipients were and how many lives where changed. We have received general information about the organ transplant recipients and about the ways the tissue donation may be used, but we have not received any feedback from the recipients.


I feel as if this is a private matter and am uncomfortable sharing this information. How can we respond to others' questions and desire to know?  -- A grieving father


Dear Grieving Father,

You can decide and define what your response will be. You can drive the conversation rather than be led by others. You can redirect their inquisitiveness and use it as an opportunity. Rather than feeling that their questions are intrusive and demanding, hear the questions as thoughtful curiosity into a world that most do not know about. Use this opening as an opportunity to talk about your son and his gift of donation as a miracle for many others.


Use this opportunity to educate and share about 1) your son and his values; 2) organ and tissue donation; and 3) the feelings of grief and the process of bereavement. It will be empowering to perceive their questions as their way of learning how to cope with death, and how you have found meaning after such a devastating loss. They may be both curious and afraid, knowing that they too will face the loss of loved one. You have experience that can help them to learn life skills and compassion.


Your thoughtful response can clear up myths and misconceptions about organ donation and grief. You can encourage open conversation about what it is like to find meaning and hope through the opportunity of organ donation. You can tell them what is true and helpful for you as you grieve. You can be that guiding "north star" because of your experience that prompts others to think about their choices and values, and spurs them to take action.


Your pure altruism, to give without expectation of anything in return (including acknowledgement or a letter from the recipients) may be that tipping point that creates a ripple effect so that many others' lives are touched, transformed, and healed because you have shown them how to give the greatest of gifts.


We can help ourselves and feel better when we hear others from a perspective of compassion. When others' questions feel insensitive, intrusive or ignorant, remember that they cannot know what you do because they have not yet learned it experientially. They are trying to learn about and cope with one of life's most difficult lessons.


Sharing what is important to you means that you can keep on giving and making a difference in the quality of others' lives.


Thank you for the lives you've already changed,

Dr. Leary is a psychologist and certified grief therapist who consults with LifeNet Health. Her responses reflect her professional opinion to general questions. Individuals struggling with complicated grief are encouraged to seek the care of a professional. Please submit your questions to Robin Cowherd, LifeNet Health, 1864 Concert Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23453, or visit Healing Tears at our website.

ComfortingComforting the Soul - Tissue donation is full-circle healing

   by Sarah L. DeckerMA, CIC-CSp.  



Karen Mason speaks about her struggle with breast cancer.

LifeNet Health recently held our annual In Celebration and Remembrance ceremonies to remember donors and honor their families.


Attendees had the opportunity to hear from speakers who received a life-enhancing gift of tissue. These recipients help us see the full circle of healing that can come from tissue donation.


Tissue donation provides lifesaving and life-enhancing transplants. From the replacement of heart valves in pediatric patients, to the reconstruction of bones after traumatic injuries, to breast reconstruction following mastectomies, there are hundreds of uses.


Karen Mason spoke candidly in Virginia Beach about her struggle with breast cancer. Her doctors performed a bilateral mastectomy and removed both breasts. After her surgery, this strong woman found she was very emotional about body image issues related to the mastectomy. Her self-esteem plummeted.


A donor's gift of skin tissue helped Karen recover physically and emotionally through reconstructive surgery. The tissue allowed her to look, in her words, "normal as a woman." She regained the confidence to travel, spend time with her family, and live her life to the fullest.


Those who are able to donate tissue are heroes to these recipients and their families. And we have heard from so many donor families that their loved one's ability to donate tissue helped them reconcile their grief. I've heard families talk about the peace they've received because of this ability to donate.


Donation is a full circle experience. Legacy for the donor, comfort to donor families, healing for recipients, and the bringing together of recipient families are all a part. Like a circle created by a stone thrown into a river, it continues to grow and ripple, affecting more people beyond the original loop and creating a beautiful, indelible change.


HealingHealing the Spirit Highlight - What is a Grief Companion®?

    by Michael Reilly, MA



Grief shared is grief healed. - Anonymous


When we lose a loved one, we often feel lost and alone in our grief. Our feelings, thoughts and behaviors can be overwhelming. We may feel as though we're the only one having these experiences, or that we are "going crazy" and there is "something wrong" with us.


If we are lucky, we have understanding people in our immediate support system - family and friends - with whom we can share our experiences. They allow us to talk about our grief and provide us with comfort. If not, we can feel isolated and withdraw from social contact. Often, people expect us to "move on" with our lives and "get over" the loss of our loved one. They can say things that are not helpful, and sometimes hurtful.


It is important to express our grief, to talk with someone who understands, to shed tears that bring some relief, to share our grief with another. Yet often those closest to us and our loved one are also grieving. They are reluctant to share their grief. They may believe that it "upsets us" to do so. So they hold back their grief and distance themselves from ours. The mutual grief becomes a barrier rather than a bridge for healing our grief.


If this describes you, please consider our Grief Companion® program. We will connect you with another donor family member more distant from the early trauma of grief. They understand grief, and they can accompany you on your journey. You can talk to someone who will listen with quiet compassion and without judgment. You can learn ways to cope with the inevitable anniversaries and holidays.


Grief Companions are volunteers who want to give back some of what they have received from others.


To request a LifeNet Health Grief Companion click here 



AloneSuicide Discussion Group now forming


Have you been affected by the death of a loved one to suicide? You're not alone. Suicide is the leading cause of death by injury in the United States. Yet you may be feeling isolated.


LifeNet Health is forming a Suicide Discussion Group called Alone No More. This 10-week series of meetings will be held via conference call. No matter your location, you can participate.


If you would like to join the discussion, please email Tina Pierce or call her at 757-609-4903. We also have materials available for you now to help support you through your grief.


ICR2In Celebration & Remembrance events across Virginia


A donor family views their loved one's quilt at the western Virginia In Celebration & Remembrance ceremony held at the Hotel Roanoke.


Senior Transplant Coordinator Anissa Cole speaks about working with donor families and what it has meant to her personally and professionally at the central Virginia In Celebration & Remembrance ceremony held at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.


Melonie Lemus sings an inspiring song of hope at the eastern Virginia In Celebration & Remembrance ceremony held at The Founders Inn.




workshopRSVP for Creative Expressions of Grief Workshop


Don't miss this summer's Creative Expressions of Grief workshop in Virginia Beach on Saturday, August 9th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 


Volunteers will help you create a photo collage or a tribute album (scrapbook). Supplies and tools will be provided. We will also help you make a large photo button of your loved one to take home.


Lunch will be served. Reservations are required.


To RSVP, please email Tina Pierce or call her at 1-800-847-7831 ext. 4903.  


Visit LifeNet Health's website for more grief and loss support