Someone You Should Know at an Organ Procurement Organization - An Interview with Monica Vernette Gray
OTS: Can you tell us what your business is, and where you work?
MG: I am a contract funeral director with the Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network in Itasca, Illinois. I transport deceased donors from the hospitals where they expire to the Gift of Hope for donation recovery. My service area includes all of the hospitals in Lake County, Indiana, Kankakee County, Illinois, and far south Cook County, Illinois.
OTS: How long have you been a funeral director, Monica?
MG: I have been a licensed funeral director/embalmer in the state of Illinois for 20 years. I have been a licensed funeral director in the state of Indiana for 13 years.
OTS: Do you know when you first realized that you wanted to work in the funeral business?
MG: I knew as a little girl that I wanted to become a funeral director when I grew up. While most young people were reading the comic and sports section in the newspaper, I used to read the local obituaries to my mother. I also was enamored with television shows like The Addams Family, The Munsters, and Quincy, M.E.
OTS: I’d like to learn more about your work for the Gift of Hope. When you are notified about a transport of a donor, does a hospital call you or does the Gift of Hope contact you?
MG; Once the Gift of Hope obtains consent from the donor family for organ and/or tissue donation and transportation, one of the Gift of Hope Donor Resource Coordinators contacts me to arrange transportation from the hospital to the Gift of Hope. Organ donation recovery takes place at the hospital by a team of organ recovery technicians. Tissue donation recovery takes place by a team of tissue recovery technicians at either the hospital or the Gift of Hope. The expectation is that donors I transport arrive at the Gift of Hope within two to two and a half hours of contacting me.
OTS: Do you transport a donor to the Gift of Hope office because they are set up with operating rooms to retrieve tissue there?
MG: Yes. The Gift of Hope has recovery suites to facilitate tissue recovery. When donor families consent to donation but not transportation, then a team of tissue recovery technicians will gather the necessary items and travel to the hospital to recover. Otherwise, tissue recovery takes place in a Gift of Hope recovery suite.
OTS: What is the most challenging part of your work transporting donors to the Gift of Hope?
MG; The organ procurement organization in Indiana is called the Indiana Donor Network. However, organ and tissue donation in Lake County, Indiana, is facilitated by the Gift of Hope. One of the most challenging aspects of what I do relates to the coordination for cornea recovery times with the eye bank in Indiana. If a donor family consents to cornea donation, then that recovery takes place at the hospital in Indiana before the donor is transported to the Gift of Hope in Illinois. However, the eye bank technicians have to travel from as far away as Indianapolis or Fort Wayne to the hospitals in Lake County, Indiana. Sometimes there are timing issues that requite navigating around.
Another challenge associated with transporting donors occurs when the hospital release paperwork is not ready, especially the Indiana Provisional Transit Permit to transport the donor across the state line. There have been times when I waited close to three hours for a hospital to complete the Indiana Provisional Transit Permit.
OTS: In additional to your work as a funeral director, you also volunteer for the Gift of Hope. What kind of volunteer services do you provide for the Gift of Hope?
MG: The volunteers with the Gift of Hope are called Ambassadors for Hope. I believe the words “community engagement” best describe my volunteer activities with the Gift of Hope.
OTS: Do you enjoy the volunteer services you provide for the Gift of Hope?
MG: I absolutely enjoy my volunteer work with the Gift of Hope. I strongly believe in organ and tissue donation. I believe volunteering with the Gift of Hope is meaningful, rewarding and worthwhile.
OTS: Thank you so much for sharing the fascinating and important work that you do.
MG: Thank you for this opportunity to speak about my work with the Gift of Hope. I would like to encourage the OTS members to do whatever they can to promote organ and tissue donation awareness at every possible opportunity. Sadly, too many people are dying as they wait on transplant lists for available organs.