April is Organ Donor Awareness month. Former GMHC employee, and current GMHC volunteer, Mary Waterman, recently shared a touching story about her mother, an organ donor, who was from the Greeley area.
Doris (Bissell, Dingbaum) Malicoat, otherwise known as farmwife, mother, and even “the cake lady” (Dorie’s Cakes), left quite an unexpected legacy…that of being an organ donor. Even though she had it clearly marked on her driver’s license for many years, the ripple effect was not fully felt by others until after she died.
In her early life, Doris worked in a department store when her kids were small. They moved to a century farm near Petersburg where she did a lot of work, including all the morning milking, and raising her four children. She began making cakes for the kids’ birthdays, and then started collecting Wilton pans (365 of them) and selling her cakes. In her busiest year, she baked and decorated 366 cakes! She was featured in the Gazette for her cookies, cakes and collection of cake pans!
Later in life, she mainly baked cookies for sale and to give away. She would ask the care center what they needed, and then make it and drop it off. The patients and staff at the Veteran’s Hospital enjoyed trays of her cookies at Christmas time, too. Her favorite cookie to decorate was a Santa face cookie. She would always go to her 10-year class reunions with a cake to celebrate and attended the last one with the only other two remaining classmates.
In 2018, when Doris died, the family honored her by including her cookie recipe in the thank you cards they sent after the funeral. Although none of her grandkids have picked up the cake decorating knack yet, she handed down another thoughtful practice to her offspring. Many of her children and grandchildren signed up to be organ donors by designating it on their licenses. The decision to donate skin is not something that a person can designate ahead of time.
Years ago, when speaking about organ donation, Doris said, “Someone might as well have what they can use, because when I’m gone, I won’t be able to use it anymore!” As she neared the end of her life, her comment was, “They probably won’t even want anything now, because nothing works anymore!” Little did she know…this kind, caring woman who had lived 88 years would still be helping dozens of people, even after her death.
A letter from the donor network arrived at her son’s home about six months after Doris had died. Mary learned that her mother’s organ donation—mostly skin and tissue—had helped 61 different people! Her family was astonished! They knew that her donation would make a difference for a handful of people, but they had not imagined that it would be so many. Dorie’s selfless act provided skin and tissue for breast reconstructions following mastectomies and temporary ‘skin bandages’ for burn victims, allowing their own skin to regenerate underneath. Other uses for harvested skin include replacing skin and tissue that has been severely traumatized or infected, or tissue that needs to be replaced because of skin cancer.
So, the end of Doris’s life reflected the way she lived. She gave of herself to help others. What an honorable trait to pass on.
Following are some things you may not know about skin donation:
- Skin is the largest organ of the body.
- Skin can be donated within 6 hours of the time of death.
- There is a total of eight layers of skin, but only 1/8 (the uppermost layer of 0.3 mm) is harvested.
- The skin is only taken from the back, thighs and legs and does not in any way disfigure the body.
- There is no bleeding from the site where skin is harvested from, and doctors bandage the parts where skin was taken.
- Donor skin can be effectively frozen and stored for up to five years.
- Blood, skin color or age do not have to be matched. Any person’s skin can be transplanted to another person.
- Burn victims receive skin when over 50% of their body has been burned. In 80% of such cases, patients can be saved if sufficient skin is present in skin banks.
April is Donate Life month. Please become an organ donor today!