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Hospital staff honors 21-year-old organ donor in moving “Walk of Respect”

For a few moments, time stood still at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple. Employees from all areas of the hospital gathered and lined the hallways to pay tribute to the life and legacy of 21-year-old Matthew Spahn.

Matthew’s final farewell lap

Nearly two weeks after being struck by a vehicle early in the morning on Oct. 7, Matthew passed away, but his story does not end there. As an organ donor, Matthew’s organs have helped save the lives of seven other people.

“[Matthew] was a runner, and he wanted to go out with a bang,” his mother Tonya said. “This was his final lap. This was his final race.”

Hospital staff honored Matthew in a “walk of respect,” or donor walk — a solemn last trip through the hallways of the hospital with staff at attention. Requested by Matthew’s family before he was taken to the operating room, this was the first time that staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple had ever performed the impromptu ceremony.

It was a fitting farewell for Matthew, a runner and former high school track-and-field star.

“[Matthew] was a runner, and he wanted to go out with a bang,” his mother Tonya said. “This was his final lap. This was his final race.”

Organ donation: Giving the gift of life

It was a moment so powerful that nearly every colleague of the 200 who lined the hallways fought back tears as the gurney passed. After the event, staff reflected on what the walk meant to them.

“Explore."

“We were able to honor the patient and the family for offering the gift of life,” Sunny Vestal said. “It was a sobering reminder that life is sacred and that our lives can continue to have impact on others after we are gone.”

“It gets you,” Lisa Turley, nurse manager in the surgical-trauma intensive care unit, said. “He was only 21 years old — but then you have to think about what he’s doing for other people.”

Sunny Vestal, regional manager in sterile processing services, said it was a perfect example of Baylor Scott & White’s value to serve patients faithfully, and described it as a humbling experience.

“We were able to honor the patient and the family for offering the gift of life,” she said. “It was a sobering reminder that life is sacred and that our lives can continue to have impact on others after we are gone.”

In the United States, there are more than 120,000 people on organ transplant waiting lists, and there are not enough donated organs to meet the growing demand. This results in an average of 18 people dying each day.

Did you know you can donate your liver as a living donor?

Matthew made the choice to be an organ donor in hopes that one day, his life would make a difference. And make a difference it has.

Watch the donor walk in this video shared by Matthew’s family.

You, too, have the power to donate life. Find out how to become a donor on the state donor registry at Donate Life Texas, or learn more about Baylor Scott & White Health transplant services.

About the author

Angel Sierra
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Angel Sierra is a communications manager at Baylor Scott & White Health.

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Hospital staff honors 21-year-old organ donor in moving “Walk of Respect”