I didn’t know Glenn Matsuki well. He was a roommate of John, my significant other’s older brother.
We met a couple of times when they visited Nancy, but we soon learned we had a unique connection that resonated with both of us – and led me to make what I hope someday will be a life-altering decision.
Glenn received a heart transplant 28 years ago. I didn’t notice anything different when I met him. He certainly had more energy than me. Moreover, he was happy and content.
He lived in Southern California and worked with the Tournament of Roses Parade for decades, even after his life-saving surgery.
One night, I called Nancy when she lived in Atlanta and told her about a pilot I knew from St. Augustine who died when his helicopter crashed while he was flying to Gainesville to procure a heart for transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.
The crash also claimed the lives of a heart surgeon, Luis Bonilla, and a procurement technician David Hines. They crashed in a remote area of southern Clay County on Dec. 26, 2012.
Nancy talked to her brother John, who relayed the story to Glenn. His group, Donate Life America, was building a float for the parade. When he heard of the crash, his group quickly made changes to the float to highlight the memories of all three who died that foggy morning in a heavily-wooded area.
Glenn went on to become a national speaker for organ donations and he created an organ and tissue donation blog. He joined The Organ Donation and Transplant Alliance shortly after the crash and he was planning to retire at the end of the month.
I don’t know if it’s possible to know if Glenn’s work saved lives. They don’t keep statistics like that. I know he had 1,200 connections on Linkedin, 900 Facebook friends and more than 26,000 blog posts that reached more than four million people in the past 15 years. Somebody has been paying attention.
He changed the way I think because I became an organ donor immediately after hearing about the Tournament of Roses decision.
I was reminded of that story when John called Nancy on Sunday. Glenn died in his sleep. While we only exchanged pleasantries in the past, I still shed a tear.
John and Glenn went to Europe for Christmas. They both caught COVID. John got better; Glenn didn’t. He spent days in intensive care, but he surprised doctors by getting well enough to go home a week ago. Two days later …
Glenn was from Hawaii and he often spoke of the Aloha Spirit.
“When you grow up in Hawaii, you learn the Aloha Spirit, and that’s basically be kind to others, accept others for what they are and appreciate their culture and what they represent,” he once said.
He lived that spirit. I know Glenn didn’t waste his second chance at life. He spent the last 28 years imploring others to be a donor, too.
John said the best way to honor Glenn’s memory was to appreciate the day, think about the good in a simple day and embrace every beautiful moment.
I also want to honor Glenn in another way. I ask everyone to think about making the most of life, even after death. It costs nothing to be an organ donor, but it's worth far more than treasure.
I met Sage Pridemore two years ago in Keystone Heights after doctors said the 14-year-old was born with half a heart. When his condition became dire, a new heart was found.
He’s done fine today. He goes to school and loves to go fishing. And it was only possible because of someone else’s generosity.
Let’s vow to become just as generous. Let’s be organ donors. Let’s make a difference.
There is no better way to honor Glenn and Sage.
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