Throughout her life, Victoria McDonnell loved to help people. And her last act of kindness made her a hero. It saved three lives.
Victoria, who grew up on Staten Island, died suddenly in 2019 at the age of 26 of an arteriovenous malformation, known as an AVM, an abnormal tangle of blood vessels in the brain.
The young Staten Islander loved her family and friends, as well as her job at the Duane Reade cosmetics counter in Downtown Manhattan. As a talented make-up artist, busy workers from the Financial District and many others would seek her out at that location to get beauty consultations. Her clients loved her work, and she loved helping them feel good about themselves. Victoria’s father, Michael McDonnell, 59, recently spoke about his daughter’s life and how proud he was of her.
“She was funny and had a great sense of humor,” Michael said. “She was very giving of her time and herself, and very generous. I think that’s probably the quality about her that sticks out the most in my mind. She just liked to help people, which is something I’m very proud of.”
Victoria’s Run/Walk for Life 5K
Michael was proud of Victoria throughout her life and after her death. She saved three lives through organ donation. Her liver and one kidney went to a 53-year-old man. Her left lung saved a 72-year-old. Her other kidney went to her brother’s friend, Jarred Worley, who was on dialysis at the time.
“Once I found out she was an organ donor, I felt like we had some kind of purpose to this. Something good can come out of it,” Michael said. “I just felt so proud of her.”
Michael, who’s a retired NYPD detective, honors his late daughter’s memory through running. From the time Victoria was in the hospital, Michael has maintained a partnership with LiveOnNY, the federally designated organ procurement organization that helps grieving families manage the complex, time-sensitive logistics of the organ-donation process in the greater New York area. Known as an OPO, LiveOnNY is one of 57 organizations of its kind across the United States. On Oct. 2, Michael and the LiveOnNY Foundation hosted the second annual Victoria’s Run/Walk for Life 5K at Clove Lakes Park.
The event raised over $12,000 for the foundation.
“There was a pivotal moment in the hospital when we realized Victoria was a registered organ donor, and it really gave me a lot of strength and comfort that she was able to save others,” Michael, who lives in Manalapan, N.J., said. “It helps the recipients, but it also helps the family of the donor. It was a final gift that Victoria gave, and I do everything I can to honor her memory. Organ donation was her last amazing act of kindness and I encourage others to do the same.”
Organ Donation in New York
Since Victoria’s passing, Michael, who is now the director of life safety and security for Silverstein Properties, NYC, has become a passionate advocate in raising awareness on the importance of becoming a registered organ, tissue or eye donor. The run/walk is an annual run in Staten Island established to inspire others to become organ donors and to help over 8,000 New Yorkers currently on the waitlist for a lifesaving transplant.
OPOs like LiveOnNY, a nonprofit, are responsible for the logistical management of organ procurement.
“We handle everything from the moment that the donor becomes authorized. Our staff are the ones holding the hands of families, going through the process in the hospital and clinically collaborating with the hospital,” Leonard Achan, president and CEO of LiveOnNY, said.
This also includes organ procurement and preservation, arranging transportation such as planes, trains or cars, packaging, appropriate storage of the organ—and so much more—until the gifted lifesaving organ gets to its assigned recipient at the transplant hospital.
Organ Donation: The Facts
LiveOnNY shared some facts about organ donation for anyone interested in learning more about the process, including:
- Organ donation only occurs after the death of a patient is declared by a physician who, legally, must not be affiliated with donation.
- Most major religions support organ donations, including Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.
- There is no age limit for organ donation. Regarding medical conditions, doctors will make a determination regarding the viability of organs at the time of death.
- Families of donors are not responsible for medical costs related to donation.
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