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Bay Area woman brings awareness to National Donate Life Month

Carolyn Hostetler can reflect on happy memories of her youngest sister Megan, who was an unexpected gift to their family.

“My parents had her as a little bit of a surprise in life. My mom had her at the age of 44. So, by the time she was born, I was 11 years old. And we had older sisters as well. And we often joked that she had four older moms that would tell her what to do, but Megan was just vivacious,” said Hostetler.

But in 2016, the unexpected cut her sister’s promising future short.

“She was just 23-years-old at the time. She was killed by a drunk driver, so clearly no one in our family was expecting that tragic event to happen,” said Hostetler.

Her family found one bit of solace in their grief.

“She was able to save five lives after her death because she was an organ donor,” said Hostetler.

She got to meet one of the transplant recipients, Richard Bremer.

“He received my sister’s lungs. My entire family got to listen to her lungs breathe again. And there are no words that can describe what that meant to our family. Getting to see Richard not only living his life to the fullest, but getting to see that my sister was a part of his journey,” said Hostetler.

Because of her sister, Hostetler is now doing what she can to help other families. She is now part of the team at LifeLink of Florida, which saves lives through organ and tissue recovery.

She’s a hospital development specialist.

“I get to work with donor families, which is my favorite part about working within our hospital systems,” said Hostetler.

Right now, organ donation is critical.

“In the United States, there are currently 103,000 people waiting nationally for a transplant. Locally in Florida, we have about 5,100 people on the waitlist and roughly 17 people every day will pass away because we just don’t have enough organs in time. One organ donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and up to 75 lives through tissue donation can be enhanced,” said Ashley Moore, the Public Affairs Manager for the LifeLink Foundation.

“Organ donation has brought my family so much hope and a sense of peace in her death. You know, none of us like to think about our own mortality, but knowing that your loved one can help save a life has brought my family so much peace, knowing that she saved five lives after her death. And it’s helped us heal in this grief process,” said Hostetler.

As she helps others navigate the bittersweet experience of life-saving organ donation, she knows her vivacious baby sister is with her every step of the way.

“You know, after you lose a loved one, when they’re an organ donor, when they’re an organ donor, their story doesn’t end right there. And really, her legacy is continuing on every day”, said Hostetler.