Fort Lauderdale, FL-- After traveling more than 2,000 miles on his bike, Bill Conner arrived today at Broward Health Medical Center (BHMC), ending the Wisconsin mans cross country tour, which he embarked upon to create awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation in memory of his late daughter, Abigail "Abbey" Mae Conner.
“When tragedy shows up on your doorstep, it’s easy to overlook organ donation, but it really is an opportunity to give the gift of life to someone else,” said Conner, 57, who started his trip in Madison, WI. “It was a healing process for me, but also an opportunity to shed light on an important issue that saves lives.”
Doctors, nurses and other staff members at Broward Health Medical Center, along with local South Florida donor programs and other members of the donation community, gave Conner a hero’s welcome as he pedaled into the final stop of “Abbey’s Ride for Life,” a multi-state journey which began on May 22nd.
“We are proud to welcome Bill Connor to Broward Health Medical Center,” said Beverly Capasso, Broward Health Interim President/CEO. “We hope his journey was a healing experience and inspired people to follow his daughter’s legacy of donating the gift of life to others through organ donation.”
“At Broward Health Medical Center, we are touched by those who give the gift of life through organ donation when they are suffering the loss of loved ones. Bill Conner is a true hero for his selfless gift and for raising awareness so the next person suffering loss is empowered by giving life back to another,” said Mark D. Sprada, MBA, BSN, RN, Interim Chief Executive Officer at Broward Health Medical Center.
Conner embarked on the journey to raise awareness about the lives that could be saved if more people followed his daughter’s legacy of organ donation. Her organ donations saved four lives, restored the beauty of sight for two people and enhanced the quality of life for 31 people. On his trip, Mr. Connor made stops along the way to share his story and urge people to register online to become organ, eye and tissue donors. He’s also set up a Facebook page so people could follow his journey, along with a GoFundMe page to raise money for Donate Life America which has already raised more than $22,000.
Conner recently had the opportunity to meet the young man who received his daughter’s heart. Loumonth Jack, Jr., is a 21-year-old Louisiana resident who was in heart failure due to a viral infection. On Father’s Day, Conner arrived in Ventress, LA. where Jack awaited. The two embraced and Jack handed Conner a stethoscope so that Conner could listen to his daughter’s beating heart. Loumonth received special permission from his transplant surgeon to travel to BHMC and participate in today’s event in memory of his heart donor, Abbey.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, every 10 minutes someone is added to the national waiting list and an average 22 people die each day while waiting for a transplant. One organ donor can save 8 lives and enhance the lives of many more through tissue donation.
“Florida Lions Eye Bank is deeply sorry for the loss Abbey’s family has experienced,” said Elizabeth Fout-Caraza, Executive Director of Florida Lions Eye Bank. “But we are grateful that she was able to restore the beauty of sight to two people through eye donation.”
“The heroic action of Abbey and her family transformed their tragedy to a life-saving miracle for four individuals. We thank Bill Conner for raising awareness about the importance of becoming a registered donor by sharing Abbey’s story. His journey has shown how organ donation strengthens families, inspires communities, and gives hope to many," said Sam Salama, M.D, Executive Director for Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency.
“Abbey’s lifesaving gifts have allowed many others to continue their journey of life,” said Lou Barnes, President & Chief Operating Officer, UMTB Donor Services Foundation. “We honor Abbey with our ongoing work in South Florida and support her father Bill as he continues to raise awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation on his journey for healing and understanding.”