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Donor's mom is a volunteer not concerned about salaries, finances of organ procurers

| Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, 11:15 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Malinda Sherid, 59, of Greensburg's 16-year-old daughter, Kim Cecchini, died in a 2001 crash and became an organ and tissue donor.
Kim Cecchini, 16, opted to become an organ donor when she received her driver's licence. She died in a car crash in 2001.

Malinda Sherid can recite the states where her daughter's organs went when she died at 16 as a result of a car crash.

“Her liver is in the Philadelphia area. One kidney is in New Jersey. The other kidney is in Ohio,” said Sherid, 59, of Greensburg.

More than 12 years after the death of her daughter, Kim Cecchini, in February 2001 from head injuries, Sherid finds comfort in knowing that her donated organs, tissue and corneas helped about 100 people across the United States.

To help cope with her grief, Sherid became a volunteer for the Center for Organ Recovery & Education in O'Hara.

“If I had the smallest bit of doubt that my daughter being a donor was going to go for profit, I would have never given consent,” Sherid said. “The big picture was that I had lost my daughter and there was nothing I could do to bring her back. But if I could prevent one other mother from going through any little bit of grief that I went through, by donating, that's what I had to do.”

Sherid calls herself a “donor mom,” a title she learned to embrace in the months after the crash.

Sherid was driving her Cadillac and picked up Kim from Greensburg Salem High School, where she was a sophomore honor student. The car skidded on black ice, and a school van hit them broadside.

Sherid suffered a concussion. The decision to give Kim's organs fell partly to her son and family, who relied on Kim's decision to donate when she applied for a driver's permit.

CORE officials said they always share with donor families an extensive list of body parts they can agree to donate. A two-page authorization form includes a list of 31 categories, from organs such as the liver and stomach to skin, tendons and saphenous veins. It also lists parts used only for research..

CORE CEO Susan Stuart said transplant coordinators provide as much information as families want. She acknowledged that it's often impossible to provide detail such as how tissue banks might process bone and that it can be sold to hospitals as cubes, chips or wedges for surgical use.

“It's all in the authorization, but we don't sit there and say it could go into a cube,” Stuart said. “This is a family that's grieving, and you have to use a lot of sensitivity.”

Only about 3 percent of patients who die in hospitals meet the criteria to become donors, Stuart said.

An average of 18 people die every day waiting for organs.

“We believe donation is what gives our donor families hope,” she said.

Within three months of Kim's death, Sherid received a letter from one of her daughter's organ recipients. She found it healing to know that a woman in Philadelphia was able to enjoy her grandson because she received Kim's liver.

“It's just a miracle when you stop and think about the big picture,” she said.

Andrew Conte and Luis Fábregas are Trib Total Media staff writers. Conte can be reached at andrewconte@tribweb.com or 412-320-7835. Fábregas can be reached at lfabregas@tribweb.com or 412-320-7998.

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