In the December issue of Houstonia, Karen Abercrombie shared a powerful essay about her sister Julie's untimely death at the hands of a drunk driver in 2004 and the life-changing events that followed. Not only did Julie become an organ donor, she also donated tissue, a lesser known but equally impactful gift.

Unlike vital organ donations, which are rushed to wait-listed patients with the dramatic flair of a Grey's Anatomy episode, tissue donations have a much longer shelf life, as it can be frozen and saved for years. Twelve years after Julie's accident, her donations have saved or enriched 80 people's lives, including the achilles tendon of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer.

Abercrombie's moving story inspired a new initiative to raise awareness about organ and tissue donations at Memorial Hermann–Texas Medical Center, where Julie was treated more than a decade ago. Today, there is a huge disparity between the number of people waiting for donations (120,000) and people who donate (14,000).

Memorial Hermann–TMC is helping bridge that gap with a new art exhibit, The Ultimate Gift, in the hospital's Rick Smith Gallery. Featuring black and white portraits by photographer Troy Fields, the exhibit showcases 17 images of organ donors, donor families and recipients whose lives were forever changed by the gift of donation. 

“When I was 10 years old, I was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis, which required a liver transplant,” says Tyree Hunter, who is featured in the gallery. “Now, 20 years later, I work as a surgical technologist assisting with transplants here at Memorial Hermann-TMC. It really has come full circle. I hope that people are able to see these photos and realize the importance of organ donation, and how it has an effect on the lives of so many different people.”

This holiday season, visit the The Ultimate Gift exhibit, open 7 days a week through 2017, and continue Julie's legacy by registering to become an organ and tissue donor.

Rick Smith Gallery at Memorial Hermann-TMC, 6411 Fannin St. memorialhermann.org

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