When Clavel Gagnon fell at work, twisting her leg into an unnatural position, she clung to the hope that it was a minor injury. Her doctor initially told her nothing was broken.
But months later, Clavel was still struggling, and walking had become increasingly painful. A specialist finally diagnosed her with a torn knee ligament and recommended an allograft implant. Being single, Clavel worried about facing a lengthy recovery on her own. She also had factors in her history that increased her potential to develop an infection. Because of her fears, it wasn’t until after the procedure that she fully realized the impact of the gift she had received.
“Somebody was gracious enough during their time on earth to give after their death,” she said. “That made me extremely emotional.” Clavel is grateful that – despite her worries – her surgery was a success, without any setbacks. “For me, this was life-changing,” she said. “The knee is strong.”
Now she’s dedicated to promoting tissue donation awareness among others. It’s not surprising that Clavel would be focused on this issue, considering that she has spent most of her career working in healthcare. She also holds a federal position with the U.S. Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams. In that role, she works at morgues and victim centers gathering information on missing people. She knows how much it means to families to have answers about what happened to their loved ones.
That awareness made it important for her to reach out to her donor’s family through a letter. “I wanted to say thank you,” Clavel said. “I appreciate that it was a gift – and something that I don’t take lightly.”
She has also spread the word to other recipients, including an online group for others with knee injuries. She was surprised to learn that many did not know there was a process for thanking their donor’s family.
Perhaps most importantly, Clavel has talked with her loved ones, including her son, about her own decision to be a donor. “I want my life to have a reason and a purpose and live on in a sense through one last act of good,” she said.