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An Important Conversation

Surprised by her brother’s wish to donate, woman urges everyone to talk about donation

When her brother Carlton Simpson passed away unexpectedly in July of 2009, Bonnie Evans and her family were surprised to learn that he had wanted to be an eye, organ and tissue donor. Despite the fact that Bonnie had spent her career working in the health-care field — first as a physical therapist, then as an administrator at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, where she currently serves as CEO of the West Orange Campus — donation was just not something she had thought much about, nor was it something her family had discussed.

Because they had never talked about it, they had no idea how Carlton felt about donation until a coordinator from the NJ Sharing Network approached them at the hospital to let them know that Carlton had signed up on the Donate Life NJ Donor Registry.

“We made them give us documentation,” Bonnie recalls. It was already a difficult time, and to suddenly have to consider donation made it even harder, but the family wanted to follow Carlton’s wishes. Although the family did not hear whether his organs could be used, several weeks later, a letter came in the mail informing the family that Carlton’s eye donation had given a second chance for sight to a man in South Plainfield. “It just uplifted me in a way I can’t even describe,” Bonnie says. “It was so powerful to know that somebody was seeing because of him. This was a tangible representation of what he had left behind.” Bonnie wanted to learn more about Eversight New Jersey — the organization that had made Carlton’s donation happen — so when

Bonnie wanted to learn more about Eversight New Jersey — the organization that had made Carlton’s donation happen — so when “If you have made a commitment to be an eye, organ and tissue donor,” Bonnie says, “you need to tell your family.” She received an invitation to Eversight’s open house following its move to Clark in 2010, she decided to attend.

At the open house, she was impressed not just by the facility, but by the staff members — their gentleness and the dignity with which they treated the donors.

“You could truly feel confident that everything was being handled with respect,” Bonnie says. “It encouraged me.”

Since the open house, Bonnie has told many people about her experience in hopes of encouraging them to join the Donor Registry. She also participated in a New Jersey Sharing Network walk aimed at supporting eye, organ and tissue donation. And she and her family have all joined the Donor Registry themselves, something they have now made a point to talk about.

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