BEAUMONT,Texas--(A Texas mother who honored the lives of her two sons who gave the gift of life through tissue donation as a float rider in the 2012 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., will be honored Friday with the presentation of a special Rose Parade memento.)--
“Since the tissue transplant, I have been able to go back to many normal activities, and am looking forward to a pain-free future. For this I am very grateful to you and your loved one. My family and I will always remember your act of kindness and generosity.”
Valerie Fourtunia, mother of tissue donors Mike and Jeremy, was one of 27 riders on the 2012 Donate Life float in recognition of the thousands of individuals who donate tissue each year. Valerie’s trip to Pasadena was sponsored by RTI Donor Services, which is a founding sponsor and one of more than 100 associations across the nation—including organ and tissue recovery organizations, industry partners, transplant centers and transplant recipient groups—supporting the float project. RTI’s sponsorship of the 2013 float will mark its tenth consecutive year supporting the program.
Prior to the 2012 parade, Valerie traveled to Pasadena to decorate a floragraph, a floral memorial portrait of her son Mike, using grains, flowers, seeds, spices and other organic materials. Mike’s floragraph was one of 72 that adorned the float. RTI Donor Services will present the framed floragraph to Valerie at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, December 14 in the lobby of CHRISTUS Hospital-St. Elizabeth, where Mike received care in the Emergency Department.
Valerie’s son Mike was 22 years old when he was involved in a fatal car accident and went on to be a tissue donor. Mike, a natural athlete, was a tissue recipient himself, having received donor tissue after tearing his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) while playing basketball.
Mike’s older brother Jeremy, whom he idolized, also passed away in a fatal car accident at the age of 16. Mike was 10 years old at the time. “My two boys, the bright lights of my life, are the only children I was blessed with,” Valerie said. “I feel as if they are together again, but still always with me.”
Valerie said that being a donor was something that she and Mike had talked about after his brother’s passing and both knew it was something they wanted to do.
Through the RTI Donor Services Pathways Program, Valerie received two letters from recipients of Mike’s donation. One recipient had an ACL reconstruction, just as Mike did when he was 15. He said in his letter to Valerie, “Since the tissue transplant, I have been able to go back to many normal activities, and am looking forward to a pain-free future. For this I am very grateful to you and your loved one. My family and I will always remember your act of kindness and generosity."
Another recipient, who needed to have a portion of her spine rebuilt after many years of agonizing pain, wrote to Valerie saying, “Without your son’s gift, I would have eventually been paralyzed.”
The 124th Rose Parade will take place at 8 a.m. PST on January 1, 2013 and again will include the Donate Life float, themed “Journeys of the Heart.” The float's collection of joyful hearts representing the new life made possible by transplantation is grounded by a reverent dedication garden filled with roses bearing personal messages honoring those who make the gift of life possible. The journey peaks with overlapping red and purple hearts representing the love and courage that define humanity at its best. The float's 200-foot-long, heart-shaped pathway is lined with 72 memorial floragraph portraits of deceased donors that will be visible along the five-mile parade route. More information is available on the float’s official website at www.donatelifefloat.org.
Today, more than 116,000 children and adults await life-saving organ transplants in the United States. Hundreds of thousands more are in need of a tissue transplant to save or greatly enhance the quality of their lives. Visit www.donatelife.net/CommitToDonation to find out how to designate your donation wishes in your state.
RTI Donor Services is a not-for-profit, American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) accredited organization, working with organ and tissue agencies to provide responsible stewardship of the gift of donation. For more information on RTI Donor Services, visit www.rtidonorservices.org