I’m Melissa Williams, the new Tissue Navigator at Lurie Children’s Hospital. More than fifteen years ago I began a journey with donation. I worked for Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network as a liaison with funeral directors and forensic professionals. At that time there were obstacles that were standing in the way of more organ and tissue transplants being performed. The improved communications with these important partners made it possible to increase the number of transplants that could be completed.

While there I transitioned to a requestor, a trained individual who would go out to hospitals and talk with families of potential organ and tissue donors about the process. This was a very eye opening experience as my work up until then had all been with families after a death had taken place.

In talking with these families during one of the worst times of their life, you saw generosity, kindness and a desire to help others. Even through their own sorrow and grief they were able and willing to think about someone else.

Since I came to Lurie I have learned so much about brain cancers and how devastating a diagnosis can be for the family. At the same time I have been amazed at what medical science is doing to try and end these horrible cancers. There is no doubt in my mind that a cure will come. It will take efforts from many groups that are committed to this endeavor.

The stories of these committed families are inspirational. I see the same compassion in them to help other children through tissue donation. They don’t want other children to suffer as theirs have. They feel a sense of responsibility to their children who lost their battle, to end childhood cancer through donation and needed fund raising. These profound examples of humanitarianism is what will in the end lead to improved survival and quality of life. We have much work to do and I am genuinely grateful to be here and see the work that is being done.