Gateway: Living

After receiving gift, Gig Harbor resident passionate about tissue donation

After tearing his ACL in a motorcycle accident, Gig Harbor resident David Hartley received a tissue donation to help repair the tear just two weeks after suffering the injury.
After tearing his ACL in a motorcycle accident, Gig Harbor resident David Hartley received a tissue donation to help repair the tear just two weeks after suffering the injury. Courtesy

In August 2015, Gig Harbor resident David Hartley was involved in a motorcycle accident while riding in Puyallup. The bike fell on his knee during the crash and immediately tore his ACL.

The debilitating injury left Hartley unsure if he would ever fully recover, but with the help of donated tissue, Hartley received a second chance at a normal and active lifestyle.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steven Bramwell was able to perform the reconstructive ACL surgery just two weeks after Hartley’s accident.

“Being a tissue recipient has been an awesome experience for me,” said Hartley. “I have two daughters, Sophia (age 14) and Maddy (12), and after my accident I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do all the activities we like to do together, so I’m very thankful for my tissue donation.”

Bramwell acquired the ACL tissue for Hartley’s surgery from LifeNet Health, the only full-service tissue bank in the Pacific Northwest.

When a person passes away, a hospital, medical examiner, funeral home or law enforcement authority reports the death and a referral is made to a tissue recovery partner. The LifeNet Health recovery team examines the tissue and recovers what it can. Recovered tissue is transported to LifeNet Health’s regional headquarters in Renton. Once it arrives, donated tissue is prepared and distributed for transplantation, medical research and education.

Hartley is one of the many people whose life was impacted by the generosity of one donor.

“A really important aspect of LifeNet is that they work with both the families of tissue donors and not just the recipients,” he said.

LifeNet Health also provides an aftercare package for tissue recipients that includes a card with a serial number on it that the recipient can choose to use to send an e-mail or a personalized card through LifeNet Health to the tissue donor’s family.

It also hosts an event once a year where tissue recipients come together and share their stories with the families of donors who are still grieving the loss of their loved ones.

Hartley attended this event for the first time last year and described it as an emotional experience that provided closure for donor families as well as an opportunity for recipients to give their thanks.

Throughout his experience of being a tissue recipient, Hartley has been very passionate about sharing his story, educating others about tissue, organ, and bone donation, and staying grateful through it all.

Once a year Hartley goes on a self-reflective hike during which he celebrates what he calls his second birthday, or the day he received donated tissue for a new ACL.

I’m just really thankful and I’ve taken this on not just as an implant, but as a responsibility because someone was nice and considerate enough to donate tissue, bones, organs, etc., and it makes me really appreciative that those people checked the little donor box when they got their license or registered online.

David Hartley

“I’m just really thankful and I’ve taken this on not just as an implant, but as a responsibility because someone was nice and considerate enough to donate tissue, bones, organs, etc., and it makes me really appreciative that those people checked the little donor box when they got their license or registered online,” he said. “Being on the other side of it is a really mind- and life-changing experience.”

Two years after his ACL reconstruction surgery, Hartley says his life is different but for the better and is as active as ever. He still rides his motorcycle, bikes, hikes, and recently started kickboxing classes.

Hartley also continues to teach classes at Pierce College and Tacoma Community College — yet another reason he is thankful everyday for the tissue donation he received.

“There are so many things we take advantage of. I wouldn’t be able to stand up and teach a class for an hour or hour and a half if I wasn’t a tissue recipient,” said Hartley.

The most important part for Hartley remains bringing awareness to people who are in need of organ and tissue donations as well as educating people on how to become organ and tissue donors.

Most people who are already organ and tissue donors registered when they got their driver’s license but there are several other ways to register online, including at donatelife.net.

“My message to the community is: Be it a smaller gift such as ACL tissue or a bigger gift like an organ or eye, make sure you sign up to be a donor and sign up to give everything and anything you can because it doesn’t go to waste,” Hartley said. “One person can be a gift giver for many different people. It’s the ultimate gift that somebody could give.”

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