- Jayne & Tom Miller, Parents
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Donors and their families are at the heart of everything we do at MTF Biologics. Without their selfless gifts, we would be unable to carry out our mission of saving and healing lives. Jayne Miller and Maggie Coolican, two former MTF employees, were the driving forces behind our donor family program – their single-minded focus on insuring that ALL donor families receive compassionate care and recognition resulted in changes to donor family care throughout the country. Their children, Nicholas Miller and Katie Coolican, helped start something so much larger than their tiny selves could ever have imagined. We are proud to dedicate this Donor Tribute Wall to Nicholas and his loving parents Tom and Jayne, and Katie and her loving parents Don and Maggie.
- Jayne & Tom Miller, Parents
- Dana Dempsey, Aunt
- Maggie & Don Coolican
- The D'Agostino Family
- Angie Dianese, Sister
- Kim Budzinski, Mother
- Melissa Torres, Mother
In December of 2017 I lost my husband to a heart attack. He had been sick for a while and was awaiting a heart transplant himself. At only 30 years old, it was the most alone I had ever felt. Tackling single parenting of our two small children and picking up the pieces of what was once our life was a daunting task. Now, when I think back to those early days, I remember clutching at anything that could provide some semblance of comfort. To this day I am relieved that by choosing to Donate Life, I continue to feel just that – comfort. This affects not only me, but also my children, now 11 and 7 years old and still constantly in awe of their father’s selfless last act.
We were well-aware of the sacrifice that would need to happen to allow John to continue on and watch our children grow up. Instead, he became the reason that someone else lives a life pain-free. While this was not our intended plan, we do find beauty in it. My son often talks about how he hopes to someday meet a recipient family, just to continue to feel that his dad truly is all around us.I wear my green bracelet daily. Working in healthcare, I do often field questions about it. Why Donate Life? While my goal is to raise awareness of donation, it also really helps to keep me connected to John in some small way. It makes me feel that his presence is still around me, continuing to pay homage to him daily, which is all I can ask for. Our mantra as a family has always been “moving forward, never on” and by wearing our bracelets and continuing to keep John’s memory alive, we continue to do just that.
- Nancy Boswell, Wife
Nicholas Miller was 14 months old when he received a heart transplant. His female donor was the same age. They both had chocolate brown eyes and curly hair. Nicholas was a happy little boy who loved balloons and Mickey Mouse and music and swimming. Four months after his transplant he died suddenly and his parents chose donation.
- Jayne & Tom Miller, Parents
March 15, 2010, my family’s lives were shattered forever. At the young age of 18, we lost a son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin unexpectedly from cardiac arrest. Dennis lost oxygen to his brain for too long leaving him brain dead for days. My family and I had to make the decision to take him off life support and to let him go to a better place. That was one of the worst and hardest days of our lives as we watched him slip away. The NJ Sharing Network visited us at the hospital and spoke with our family about donation. Already working for MTF Biologics for 10 years, I knew how the process worked but still could not believe this was happening to MY nephew and to our family. I was able with the Sharing Network to talk to my family about donation and ensuring them that it was the right decision to donate what he could. That day, March 15th, 2010, Dennis became an angel and in the process, donated his liver to a man in NJ (father of 1), his heart to a man in NJ (father of 2), one kidney to a woman in NJ (mother of 2) and his other kidney to a man in NJ who was on the waiting list since 2004. We did receive a letter from one of the recipients family members and in that letter they expressed their condolences for our family but also their gratitude to us that we made the decision to donate life which saved their loved ones life. It was all so bitter sweet but knowing that my nephew Dennis lives on in others and that he did the most unselfish thing he could have ever done by donating life to others is really amazing.Dennis you are loved, were always loved and we all miss you so much. Our lives will never be the same without you. Forever Young!
- Dana Dempsey, Aunt
Kathleen Bridgett Coolican, the youngest of six children, was a freckle-faced, curly haired tomboy. Katie dreamt of being a mud wrestler. She was a happy little girl, smiled often and had a “what’s next life” kind of attitude, according to her mother, Maggie. She loved to fish, and often put her bathing suit on backward.
Six-year-old Katie was a first grade student when she collapsed on the playground from an arteriovenous (AV) malformation and became the family’s first organ and tissue donor. “Katie’s death in a small New England town impacted many,” said Maggie. “We quickly understood that her death was not something we would ever get over, but would learn to live with. Friends, neighbors and strangers provided daily support and dedicated a playground in her memory in 1984.” Her graduating classmates remembered Katie and dedicated a page in their senior yearbook. Katie’s donation educated many children and adults and continues to help her family. She is featured in a children’s coloring book about donation, Precious Gifts.
“Much has changed since Katie became a donor. At that time we received one letter about her gifts and then were left to grieve alone. There were no books or pamphlets about donation or grief. There were no support groups or cards remembering her birthday. There were no quilts or special memorial services or floats to remember Katie and other donors and their families,” observed Maggie.
In 1985, Maggie began to speak out about this lack of care and support that she felt as a nurse and a mother. She wrote an article that appeared in the American Journal of Nursing that became “Katie’s Legacy” and led to many speaking engagements throughout the country as she advocated for improved care and follow-up for donor families.
By 1989, Maggie had written a family donor booklet, For Those Who Give and Grieve, as her graduate thesis, and the booklet was published and distributed to more than 125,000 people. The response to the booklet led to the publication of the For Those Who Give and Grieve quarterly newsletter with Maggie as the founding editor. In 1992, the National Donor Family Council housed at the National Kidney Foundation was formed. The Council, with Maggie as the founding chair, published the Donor Family Bill of Rights, National Communication Guidelines and several other resources for donor families. Maggie also created the National Donor Family Quilt and sewed the first 25 panels with a total of 1,750 “Patches of Love.” Katie’s patch went on the final panel.
During this time, Maggie also worked with Hartford Hospital to create a two-year follow-up bereavement program for families that has been replicated around the country. She has participated on several national boards and committees, including UNOS, AMA Organ Task Force, Advisory Board on Organ Transplantation, AOPO Donor Family Council and was a founding member of Donate Life Connecticut.
In 1991, she began working at the organ recovery organization in her home state, now LifeChoice Donor Services, and later at the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (now MTF Biologics), until her retirement.
It’s hard to put into words what donation has meant for our family. It brought so much joy, excitement, comfort, peace, and allowed for accelerated healing. I did not get very many opportunities to parent my son during his brief life, but because of donation, I have been able to parent his memory and help create a lasting legacy for him. I love knowing that my son’s gifts have had a profound impact on medical research, and allowed for new discoveries to be made. I am so very proud to be called a donor mother, and I am forever grateful that the Lord allowed donation to be part of our story!
I cannot believe that almost twelve years have passed since I saw your smile, heard your voice and felt your touch. I never believed that I would survive without you but here I am. I am strong because of your love, guidance and devotion. I miss you, Charlie, every moment. You are my heart, my soul, you are my everything. I have survived because of all you taught me and because your spirit continues to guide me.
Until our spirits are reunited, I remain your loving devoted wife. I am and always will be your soul mate.
- Your forever love, Marie Kapral
My dad often spoke of passion and legacy; he would always say it is important to love something and feel passionate about it. And if you are lucky enough to find your passion and devote your life to it, you will then create a legacy.
My dad, Joseph Valentino D’Addio was extremely passionate about helping others. Whether it was coaching sports or mentoring children in town, he always found a way to help people. One day he decided to coach our grammar school’s basketball team, not knowing anything about basketball, just so the kids could have a team. In the upcoming months before the season, he devoted his time to learning the game, which led the team to an undefeated season. My 50 year old father was full of life, always on the move; therefore it was a shock to my family when on April 13, 2009, while dining with my mom, he suffered a cerebral brain hemorrhage. My father was my family’s superman - never did we think of losing him. We sat in the hospital for days, hoping and praying for a miracle.
Days went by and our miracle finally came. A representative from NJ Sharing Network explained organ and tissue donation to my family, and instantly we knew this is what my dad would have wanted. In his final hour, he had the ability to give the gift of life to others. His passion for helping people allowed his legacy to live on. My dad donated his organs and tissue enhancing the lives of over 100 people. Now my dad lives on in others throughout the United States, giving people second chances at life they would not have been offered without the generous and helpful nature of people like my father. Knowing someone can live, run, spend time with family because of this gift is everything to me and my family. We are so thankful for NJ Sharing Network and MTF for making this gift possible!
- Alyssa D’Addio, Daughter
John F. Straniero
John F. Straniero, head coach of Team Straniero, is described as larger than life. This was an easy feat for John considering how he lived his life. He spent his free time playing sports, coaching every team his three kids played on, and rooting for the Cleveland Browns, the Cavs and the Tribe. He included "Go Browns" in his signature.
John battled depression and tragically took his own life. However his death is defined by the people he HELPED through the gift of cornea and tissue donation. His corneas are providing sight for two visually impaired people. His donated bone helped a military veteran and his skin helped a young burn victim.
John’s donations went to 20 states and Canada, with over 71 transplants for people ranging in age from 16 to 73. John’s tissue donations have been a ray of sunshine in our loss. We hope that many others will continue to give the gift of life.
John F. Straniero, coaching from Heaven since 2009! We love and miss you!
- Deb, Kelly, Jen, and Jack
As much as my heart was shattered into a million pieces and my mind was full of so many emotions after Joey was pronounced brain dead at the age of 25 from injuries he sustained from a car accident, the pieces began to be filled with, my son’s selfless devotion, true to who he was, to give his last gifts to this world – a second chance at life to someone in need. Bringing full circle the struggle of hope in the face of hopelessness and helplessness – he was already a true angel to so many.
At the age of 17, it was Joey’s decision to become an organ and tissue donor when he received his driver’s license. At that moment I don’t think I could have been any more, proud of him for his mind at 17 to even think about helping others by giving them his gifts to complete strangers, so they can continue living.
I was diagnosed with a blood and bone cancer in June, 2018 which led to me needing major spine surgery in 2019. Joey, had 3 pieces of bone left in the bone bank, 2 of which were a perfect match. I truly believe that, Joey, knew I would need him to save my quality of life and it was his way of saying “keep going mom, I got your back, you got this”. I had Joey’s back for 25 years and now he has mine. I know he is rallying around me, so I will never be alone and has saved me in more ways than one. Joey, is a true hero to so many, but now he is my hero in every sense of the word. He is the whispering strength behind me pushing me each day to live life to the fullest.
I am committed to do whatever I can to promote organ and tissue donation all because of a 17-year-old boy, who never thought twice about giving his precious gifts to someone in need. I have found peace and comfort in knowing my son’s legacy and memory will be remembered through organ and tissue donation. To us, Joey, will forever be our “angel of life” in more ways than anyone could ever know.Joey, is and will always be my greatest accomplishment and my entire world. He will always be in my heart, back and never leave my mind.
- Heather Prutzman, Mother
Akintunde Oladele was born at Crawford Long Hospital in Atlanta on Thursday, October 8, 1992. The high temperature that day was 63°F. A cooler than average summer had just drawn to a close and the city found itself sliding into what would turn out to be a cooler than average autumn.
All of this belied entirely the arrival of the heated little firebrand who had just entered into the world. If you seek to understand who he is there are four salient points that feature prominently. In no particular order: he was incredibly passionate; he loved giving gifts; he loved stories (be they told as books or games or in the form of high fantasy); and he insisted strongly upon living life in the presence of other people. From his earliest moments these characteristics were already quite firmly established. You may take it on good authority that they did not in any way diminish. Not from his first day and not to his last.
His home life was spent entirely at various addresses in Dekalb County, always in that general expanse roughly between Decatur and Stone Mountain (except for that time spent at what he soon came to regard as his second home, at Morehouse College). We have every indication that this general area is where he intended to make his home forever, for he spoke frequently of the fact that although he could make it in any city in the world, he desired strongly to stay in the Atlanta area and to cultivate not only himself but the community around him.
But make no mistake; his horizons were not narrow. His earliest education was had at Atlanta International School. He quickly established himself as an outgoing person, and he made friends from all over the world. This trend continued into the public school system, from Brockett Elementary, to Tucker and Henderson Middle, to Lakeside High School and on to college.
He was not content merely to consume things and ideas and experiences, but also to make them. Akin was always on the very cutting edge of experience, always abreast of the latest fad. While this made him too easily prone to set something down almost as quickly as he had picked it up, it also ensured that he would excel at computer science, for you could be sure that his knowledge was always freshly acquired, incredibly up to date, and that it would be applied vigorously. (It also ensured that he was never boring. For more on this, ask those who partied with him! Or those who shared his taste for "nerd" culture.)
With this knowledge and this energy he wanted to contribute to science and to the greater well being of the world, not only to advance the field of computer science but especially to make sure that the downtrodden were not left behind, that the gains of the new world he was helping to build would be shared in abundance. In his last days his mind was teeming with great plans aimed at finding ways to achieve this, both in terms of what he might give to his family – who he loved– as well as to the community.
It may not be entirely accurate to speak of "his last days," however. As long as something of a person's deeds and works touch someone positively, that person is still, in a very real sense, part of an ongoing story. Given the sheer number of people Akin, in his boundless zeal, made sure to interact with and with his final legacy of tissue donation, we can be quite certain that his story in particular will echo through into eternity.
- The Oladele Family
David A. D’Agostino, a biology major from the University of Scranton class of 1981 shared a passion for medicine and Science. After learning about the advances in tissue transplantation, David got directly involved in the early development of tissue banking in his local community. In life he shared his friendship, talent, compassion, and love with everyone he met. The selfless act of donation continues to give love to others. He died in an accident in 1982 and became Pennsylvania’s first tissue donor. His giving nature and kind spirit continues to nourish his family, his donor families, and the lives of others.
- The D'Agostino Family
To honor and celebrate our beloved Brian, and his gift of life to others. Brian was a people person, and volunteered his time whenever possible. He had a smile that would light up a room, and a wicked sense of humor. We know that he would be very proud that he was able to help others through organ, tissue, and corneal transplants. We called him Beezer, and miss him every day. We are honored to celebrate his life with this Tribute Wall.
- Dianne Freeman, Mother
Jeffrey J. Pomykala
Jeffrey was an awesome guy! He was the kind of person that would talk to anyone! Always making us laugh with his impersonations…and always the glue that held us together. We all miss talking to him as he always had an ear for listening and giving sound advice. Rest easy brother. Not a day goes by that you’re not thought of.
- Angie Dianese, Sister
Jonathan was such a cool CHARISMATIC soul. EVERYTHING came alive when he was present. He always put others before himself and DEMONSTRATED it in his thoughts, words, and actions. His spirit lives on and his light shines BRIGHTER each day.
- Sally Yabra, Mother
Mikey was a gentle giant to all who knew him. His wonderful laugh and beautiful mind gone too early. Missed and loved everyday. We find comfort in knowing the gift of his donation has helped so many in their healing. May God bless them on their journey.
- Kim Budzinski, Mother
Isaiah was and continues to be our prince. The only boy among three girls, he provided boundless energy and light to our entire family. On November 1, 2013, when that light was dimmed, our gift became a gift for others. May Isaiah's life, legacy, and gifts through tissue donation, continue to enrich the lives of others. It is our honor on his behalf to share his hero's journey with others in the hopes that others will say yes to organ and tissue donation.
- Yolanda Toole, Mother