By Jennifer McDermott | The Day
Families of those who made the gift of life to others attend ceremony at hospital
New London- John Lombardi Jr. tearfully accepted a pink rose and a hug from a staff member at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital Sunday afternoon.
The hospital had invited family members of recent organ, tissue and eye donors to attend a reception honoring their loved ones for giving new life to others.
Lombardi's wife Holly, who died last year at the age of 44, donated her kidneys and liver.
"She was a very kind person," Lombardi, of Waterford said. "It has been a big comfort knowing that she lives on."
It was the first time the hospital had organized such an event. Dr. Joseph Gadbaw, chairman of the department of medicine, said they hope to make it a tradition. A patchwork quilt that honors the donors was on display, and will be kept in the lobby for the next week.
"We want to celebrate the local donors," Gadbaw said. "It's such a special gift that they provided."
Gadbaw also wants to raise awareness about organ donation so that more people will register as donors.
Tom Kasprzak told fond stories of his daughter Mary, who had Down syndrome and donated five organs when she died at the age of 15.
The Kasprzaks are now close with the woman who received Mary's heart.
John Emblidge told the audience how he would have died in 2005 if it were not for a liver and kidney transplant. Emblidge, of Waterford, suffered from hemochromatosis, an inherited disease in which too much iron builds up in the body, as well as a deficiency that causes liver and lung disease.
"I think it helps people to see that there is someone at the other end of the process," said Emblidge, a husband and father of three who retired from the Submarine Force as a lieutenant commander.
Betsy Schady went to the event to support the organ donation program and to honor her husband. Steve Schady, 68, went into cardiac arrest and died last year. A Vietnam veteran, Schady donated his corneas and tissue.
"It was important for him," said Betsy Schady, of East Lyme, "but really it's important for everyone to be an organ donor."
Schady said her husband "gave the gift of sight to two people."
"I know he would've been happy about that," she said.