Family and friends gather for ‘Wall of Heroes’ unveiling

HARLINGEN — Winter Texan Don Uecker knew the decision to donate his wife Darlene’s tissues would be hard.

It’s a hard decision that a lot of families have had to make. It’s selfless and bold and Uecker is proud he could help Darlene change the lives of others.

Family and friends of local residents who gave the gift of life by donating organs and tissue were present to honor their loved ones yesterday by unveiling the “Wall of Heroes.”

The wall is in front of the main elevator in the lobby of Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen.

You can’t miss it; they are the faces of people who have died. These are also the faces of people who have donated their organs to help others.

People from all walks of life grace this wall. Men, women, children and babies even.

Hospital officials will soon have to move the display into the hall because they are running out of room.

As Uecker stood in front of a large group of donors’ families, he got emotional recounting his wife’s journey in tissue donation.

Darlene was unable to donate organs but she was able to give her corneas, tissues and bones.

“She helped 71 people. The youngest was a 6-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy with cleft pallets,” Uecker said. “They aren’t lifesaving but they are life changing.”

The oldest recipient from Darlene was 76.

“She helped people in 19 different states,” Uecker said. “Just think how this helps not only this area but other states. It’s up to us to educate the people out there.”

About 13,000 people in Texas are on a waiting list for an organ transplant.

By registering with Donate Life Texas Valley residents can enhance the lives of up to 80 people through organ, tissue and cornea donation.

Dr. Vijian Dhevan, donor committee chair, said it’s because of everyone’s kindness that people are able to live.

“From the standpoint of the physician, sometimes it may seem we are all very clinical but we do understand,” he said. “It’s a difficult decision.”

“We get to see the appreciation in the recipient and they are so thankful.”