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Organ donation: My husband's legacy of giving

Love–that’s why you do it. That’s why you give. 

It was Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, and we had wrapped up a weekend filled with friends and family. Joey, my husband of 25 years, and I had hosted a big party on Saturday to celebrate two milestones, his 51st birthday and my newly earned master’s degree. The festivities were long overdue because of the pandemic and my school requirements.  

In an unimaginable turn of events, less than 48 hours after the celebration, we were in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Joey had collapsed in our bathroom at home. I immediately went into nurse mode—performing CPR and calling 9-1-1. The ride to the hospital is a blur, but I am told that I called ahead to my colleagues in an effort to get everything prepared for Joey. 

I didn’t fall apart until we arrived at the hospital. 

Joey had experienced a catastrophic hemorrhagic stroke and was placed in the ICU at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. He was in the excellent care of my friends and colleagues. I kept my faith, but as a nurse I had an ominous feeling about what was to come.  

Joey was the kind of guy who brought people together. He was a husband, a father and a businessman. He was a competitive guy, particularly in business–where he thrived as an entrepreneur and mentor. 

As a younger man he had an intensity about him, but the years had imparted a humbleness. He practiced what he preached. He lived his life with purpose–and he was a giver of both time and resources. He believed in people and was a cheerleader for others in business. 

He worked very hard to create a life for us and our two boys. And, after many, many years of long hours building his investment business, he decided to retire. He’d spent the two previous years soaking up time with our boys and me, while supporting my nursing career and education. 

During the fifth day that Joey was in the hospital, I was at home resting when he came to me in a dream. In the dream, he was golfing and hit a long 310-yard drive. He was so happy, yelling in joy of this achievement. At the end of the dream, from the backseat of a unique sports car, Joey looked at me and said, “Did I do good?”. I did not quite hear his question, so I asked him to repeat what he said. He said it twice, “Did I do good? Did I do good?". I realized he was not asking about his golf game, but about his life with me. Did he do good as a husband and as a father to our kids?  When I awoke from the dream, I no longer felt his presence. I knew this was his goodbye.  

It was on that day, Nov. 19, that Joey was pronounced dead. We had to make the difficult choice to take him off life support. The days he spent in the hospital allowed our family time to prepare for his death and afforded us the chance to look for any good that could come out of this horrible situation. 

As a nurse, I have been in the difficult position of supporting countless families through organ donation, but the emotions and feelings are very different when the decision is your own. You think you know how it might feel, but when the time comes, you don’t. You may check the box at the DMV to be an organ donor, but you can’t understand what that really feels like until you confirm that decision for your loved one. 

Signing the release was a final goodbye, and it made his death a devastating reality. But this decision allowed Joey to give, even after death, as he always did in life.  

Before he passed we had prepared life insurance–a topic Joey felt passionately about–but we hadn’t discussed organ donation. However, we had seen its amazing impact firsthand. Our very close friend had received an organ transplant We knew personally how this one heavy choice could change the course of someone’s life.

Joey was the kind of guy who brought people together. His funeral was no exception. More than 800 people came to pay their respects. It brought together people who had not spoken in years. And his death and sacrifice brought me together with others passionate about organ donation.  

Joey’s ultimate gift changed the lives of at least 6 people.  

After one year, organ recipients through Lifenet can write to donor families. I have received several very personal and touching letters which keep me closer to Joey. His lungs, liver, kidneys and tissues helped others to have a new lease on life. He would be proud of these gifts he gave. 

His death is slowly easier to talk about, but the pain never goes away. I continue to try to look on the bright side, following my faith and slowly healing knowing the impact that his life has made.  

Organ donation is truly the ultimate gift and sacrifice. You can’t buy it. You can’t pay for it. The price is someone else’s life. 

I signed the release. And Joey gave until the end. That is his legacy.   

Yes Joey, you did good. 


Featured Image
Giving hand in hand

Joanna Pascua-Colasito MBA, RN, BSN, CCRN, is the director of patient relations at Chesapeake Regional Healthcare. Joanna started her nursing career in 1994, receiving her associate's degree in nursing from Tidewater Community College. She received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Hampton University in 2005 and her MBA in 2021. Joanna has worked in a variety of nursing positions at CRH, including in Critical Care/Intensive Care units as a bedside nurse, and as a Stroke Program Coordinator, ICU Educator and Director of Critical Care and Emergency Services. She remains active in the community through philanthropic work with the Begin Again Foundation, the Philippine Nurses Association of Virginia, the Philippine Cultural Center and the Hampton Roads Women's Empowerment Event. She is mom to two sons JoJo and Justin. Joanna’s recent loss could have paralyzed her from living. Her faith continues to push her forward.

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