Secretary of State Ruth Johnson honors Marquette General Hospital for organ donation efforts

APRIL 17, 2014

Johnson cites kindness, compassion in Sanaz Nezami case

MARQUETTE, Mich. – Secretary of State Ruth Johnson today presented one of her prestigious Shining Star awards to Marquette General Hospital for their work in a sensitive organ donation case that has made headlines around the world.

"The people of this hospital and this community are truly a shining example of deep caring, kindness and how to handle organ donation under the most difficult of circumstances," Johnson said.

Sanaz Nezami, 27, an Iranian citizen, was a student at Michigan Technological University when she was assaulted so brutally by her husband in December 2012 that she would never recover. She was alone, her family 6,000 miles away.

The hospital was able to track her family down in Iran and, using online technology, allowed her family to see Nezami and offer some comfort in her last hours. Family members, who said they wanted Americans to know that Nezami loved America, authorized the recovery of her organs so she could impact the lives of several other people through organ and tissue donation.

The hospital and community leaders went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Muslim burial traditions were observed, even creating a Muslim section in a local cemetery just for Nezami. The case has made headlines all over the world and Nezami is reportedly considered a heroic figure in her home country.

Johnson presented the award to Gail Brandley, Intensive Care Unit nurse supervisor and the hospital's organ procurement coordinator. Also attending today's press conference were Marquette General Hospital's CEO Ed Banos, chief medical officer Dr. Thomas Norem and chief nursing officer Dr. Dagmar Raica. Leaders from the University of Wisconsin Organ and Tissue Donation effort and Gift of Life Michigan were also in attendance.

"This award is a tribute to our nursing staff who cared for Sanaz in her last moments of life. Their dedication and compassion for one individual is a testament to our entire staff who work tirelessly to provide top quality care for all of our patients each and every day," said Dagmar Raica, DNP, chief nursing officer at Marquette General Hospital.

Richard Pietroski, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan, said donation has the power to heal lives.

"Obviously that applies to the people who received Ms. Nezami's gifts. It also seems clear that her family and loved ones were helped in their healing by knowing how her generosity was able to save others. That healing and measure of comfort extends to the staff at Marquette General and everyone else who made something wondrous happen out of something tragic."

Secretary Johnson has made expanding Michigan's Organ Donor Registry a priority. Under her leadership, more than 1.4 million people have been added to the registry in the past three years alone. The effort has taken Michigan from having just 27 percent of Michigan adults on the registry to 45 percent today. The national average is 48 percent.

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