It is never easy to lose a loved one, especially in such tragic circumstances as war, but for Kelly Hugo, being able to derive something good out of tragedy eases the pain somewhat.
Kelly lost her son, then 21-year-old Marine Cpl. Sean Osterman, in December 2010. The young Marine had been mortally wounded in Afghanistan, and was brought to a U.S. Army Hospital in Germany. It was there that his mother, Kelly, a junior high school counselor, was asked about organ donation: “I said, ‘Oh, yes,’ because something good has to come out of something bad.”
Sean is among the 36 fallen U.S. service members who have been able to touch European lives even in death, as their organs – hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys, and pancreases – were donated to about 140 recipients who needed them. Harvesting and implantation of these key organs are overseen by a German Foundation.
Service members who are wounded in combat are brought to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for care, before they are flown to the United States. Those who are determined to be brain dead due to head wounds arrive in the hospital on a ventilator; Joel Newman, a spokesman for the German foundation’s US Counterpart, the United Network for Organ Sharing, shared that even with ventilator support, key organs last for only 24 to 36 hours.
Insel Angus, an intensive care nurse at Landstuhl, shared that there is a narrow window for the removal, transportation and transplantation of organs, given their viability. Family members of the wounded warriors are flown to Germany to be by their side before the inevitable, and when the appropriate time has passed, they are approached about organ donation.
Ami Neiberger-Miller, a spokeswoman for TAPS, a U.S. group that supports grieving military families, shared: “Many [families troops] believe the donation carries on the legacy of their loved one.”