BAMC Donor Day event features donor family, recipient stories

By Lori NewmanFebruary 22, 2024

National Donor Day
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Radu Boghici shares his story at a National Donor Day observance at Brooke Army Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Feb. 14, 2024. Boghici, a former member of the Romanian national rowing team, got a second chance at life after receiving a life-saving heart transplant from a BAMC patient. (DoD photo by Jason W. Edwards) (Photo Credit: Jason W. Edwards) VIEW ORIGINAL
National Donor Day
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Col. Wylan Peterson, deputy commander for surgical services, addresses the crowd during a National Donor Day observance at Brooke Army Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Feb. 14, 2024. National Donor Day is a day to appreciate donors and loved ones who have given the gift of life, have received a donation, are currently waiting or did not receive an organ in time. (DoD photo by Jason W. Edwards) (Photo Credit: Jason W. Edwards) VIEW ORIGINAL
National Donor Day
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Amy Gordon speaks at a National Donor Day observance at Brooke Army Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Feb. 14, 2024. Gordon’s brother died at BAMC after a motorcycle accident but was able to save the life of another through organ donation. (DoD photo by Jason W. Edwards) (Photo Credit: Jason W. Edwards) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Feb. 22, 2024 – Brooke Army Medical Center held a National Donor Day observance Feb. 14 on the lawn outside the Garden Entrance to the hospital.

“This occasion is not just about raising awareness; it's a solemn remembrance and appreciation of the incredible gift of life through organ, eye, and tissue donations,” said Army Col. Wylan Peterson, BAMC deputy commander for surgical services. “It's a day to honor those heroic donors and their loved ones who have either given or received the gift of life, those who are waiting for a miracle, and those who tragically did not receive their miracle in time.”

The event featured a story about an organ donor and the grateful recipient of his heart.

Amy Gordon spoke on behalf of her brother, Justin, who died in a motorcycle crash in 2015.

“He was going down Wurzbach Parkway … he was going super-fast, and he hit the embankment and went over, landing on Thousand Oaks (Drive),” she explained. “Luckily there was a car driving by and they called (911) immediately.”

Gordon recalled the day before the accident. “It was a Saturday night. (Our family) went out to dinner, but he decided to stay home and barbecue instead.”

“The next day my dad was coming over to do some remodeling in our bathroom,” she said. “I was taking a nap on my son’s bed and my daughter was I think 3 at the time, she was playing with my phone. I woke up and noticed that I had missed eight calls from my mom. That’s not normal, if she’s calling eight times there is something going on.”

After playing phone tag, her mother told her that her brother was on life support at BAMC.

“My kids didn’t know what was going on because I was hysterically crying,” Gordon said. “I knew if he was on life support at BAMC trauma center it probably wasn’t good.”

The family gathered in the Intensive Care Unit where they were told Justin no longer had any brain activity. They made the heart-wrenching decision to remove him from life support.

“They asked us about organ donation,” Gordon said.

This was something she was familiar with because she worked at Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital, in the liver clinic as the liver transplant coordinator.

My mom asked me what I thought.

“I said ‘you know Justin is young. He’s in his late 20s. He’s got good organs and he can give life to other people who can live longer than what they’re expected,’ so we decided that we were going to donate his organs,” Gordon said.

Many lives were changed because the family chose to donate his organs including Justin’s heart recipient Radu Boghici, who was also at the observance to share his story.

Boghici used to be on the Romanian National rowing team and was physically fit, but his family is predisposed to a genetic disorder.

“Back in 2008 I was probably in the best shape of my life,” he said. “I had just won the U.S. National Championship in rowing in Long Beach, California. Two months later I was dead, basically. At the Austin heart hospital they were trying to revive me.”

Boghici had a heart attack while rowing with his wife.

“That started a long seven-year decline of heart failure,” he explained. “After almost seven years I was told it’s time to get on the list for a heart transplant. It was pretty horrible to have to wait for a new heart.”

Boghici was put on the transplant list in January 2015 and received his heart transplant March 17, 2015.

“My heart was going down fast,” he said. “I remember being clammy, my digestion wasn’t working well. The old heart was just trying to keep the (blood) flow to the vital systems. After the transplant, the first sensation I remember after eating was that my belly was unusually warm with all the blood that was now being pushed by this new heart.

“It was thanks to Justin’s family for giving his organs for donation that I’m here now,” Boghici said choked up with emotion. “I’m not sure how long I have left but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

He also expressed his gratitude to the transplant team in Austin and to his wife, Lynnette.

“She took me by force to the heart hospital in Austin where I ended up dying for a few minutes,” he said. “I’m glad my death happened there and not elsewhere because I wouldn’t have made it.”

Gordon is comforted to know that her brother was able to help so many people through organ donation.

“My brother was a wonderful guy,” she said. “He loved his kids.”

At the time of his accident, he was engaged to be married. His son was under a year old, and his daughter was almost four.

“Both his kids are spitting images of him, so it keeps my mom going every day,” she said. “I miss my brother every day but I’m glad I have my niece and nephew.”

As part of the observance, there were 54 balloons placed around the field to represent every donor who died in 2023. There were 21 red balloons for organs, 16 pink for eye and 17 white for tissue. Following the ceremony, a donor registration table was available for people to sign up to become organ donors.

There are a few ways to register to become a donor; (or your state registry if not in Texas) or the national Donate Life site at and follow the prompts. Individuals can choose what they would like to donate (all organs, tissue and eye or be more specific). People can also check the box when renewing their driver’s license.

“Legally, donor registration is binding, and a family does not need to consent if a patient is registered,” said Gina Pickard, BAMC trauma services director. “That is one of the reasons it is so important to ensure your family/loved ones understand your wishes. Sometimes it is difficult for families to process donation while dealing with a tragic loss of a family member. Having the knowledge previously can help a grieving family understand what happens next when a registered donor has a non-survivable injury or medical event.”

“By choosing to become a donor, one person can save up to seven lives through organ donation and enhance over 75 lives through tissue donation,” Peterson added. “The impact is monumental - approximately 58,000 tissue donors each year contribute to lifesaving and healing transplants, with around 2.5 million tissue transplants performed annually.”

Pickard thanked the donor partners Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, San Antonio Eye Bank and South Texas Blood and Tissue Center for their support.

She also asked the attendees to remember the donor families.

“I hope that as you go through the day today that you will remember all of the families who made these hard decisions, in really difficult times in their lives, and that everyone will consider donor registration,” Pickard said.