Hospital Staffers Honor Nurse Who Died of Brain Aneurysm Ahead of Organ Donation

Mary Desin's colleagues said they needed a chance to say good bye.

A Pennsylvania nurse spent her whole career helping others, and when she decided to continue saving lives after by donating her organs after death, more than 100 hospital employees gave her the farewell she deserved.

Mary Desin, 58, who worked as a nurse at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Hamot Hospital for nearly 40 years, died of a brain aneurysm two weeks ago.

As doctors prepared to wheel Desin to have her liver and kidneys donated, more than 100 hospital employees with whom she had become close over the years filled the hall and paid tribute to her final heroic act.

“It was quite poetic that Mary had been wheeled to her operating room that she had worked for so many years for her last hurrah,” said senior professional staff nurse Donny McDowell, who has worked with Desin almost since the beginning.

He explained that their whole team of nurses was very close, and her sudden death impacted them all.

“We get together for dinners or Christmas parties,” McDowell said. “Mary was always on time, always coming to work early, usually a half-hour early. The day that she collapsed, she collapsed in the parking garage on her way to work in uniform.”

She said that when she saw her close friend in the trauma unit, she wanted to jump in to help right away. “Once I got to the ICU and we turned her care over to the ICU nurses, that’s when I let my emotions take over and I tearfully told them, ‘Please take good care of our Mary.’”

When it came time to donate Desin’s organs, the nurses approached her family and asked if they could honor her with a hero walk, where they lined the hallways and gave her a final farewell.

“The family knew that we needed a time for us to say goodbye to Mary as well,” McDowell said. “The halls were lined as far as you could see. It was lined completely with nurses all the way to the operating room, and once you were in the operating room you had another line in there because they’re all scrubbed and sterile.”

Not only did Desin’s death save the lives of those who received her organs, McDowell said he hopes the touching moment will continue to save lives by educating others about organ donation.