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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Love Lives Forever Through The Gift Of Organ And Tissue Donation

Eric and Holly Specht shared an Organ Donor Memorial quilt with friends and family this Mother's Day weekend. Photo provided.

It’s been six Mother’s Days that Holly and Eric Specht have spent without their son, Nicholas.

This Mother’s Day, however, was a special one as the Spechts were able to celebrate Nicholas’ life in a different way by joining with other families whose loved ones chose to give the gift of life through organ donation.

Holly and Eric Specht, founders of NKY Hates Heroin, lost their son, Nicholas, to addiction in 2013.

At the time of his death, the Spechts did not realize Nicholas was an organ donor. They only found out when he was brought into the ICU.

They say it did not surprise them at all and are very proud of him for doing so.

Our Nicholas was able to donate to five women who live today due to his beautiful gift of life for others,” said Holly.

According to the National Donate Life Registry, 114,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving transplant, and another person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes. Twenty two people die each day because the organ they need is not donated in time; And one organ, eye and tissue donor can save and heal more than 75 lives.

Also according to the Donate Life campaign, statistics show that 95% of Americans are in favor of being a donor but only 58% are registered.

This year, the Spechts were invited to participate in the Donor Memorial Quilt Project through Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA).

Each of the 14 completed quilts (a 15th is presently being assembled) displays 30 local individuals from Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia who have donated through organ, tissue and eye donation.

A quilt is sewn together once 30 squares are received and then another is started. Every donor’s family is able to borrow a quilt, once completed, for a week to share with friends and family.

The Spechts chose this Mother’s Day to bring the quilt home to share with their church and loved ones.

Holly said the process was a labor of love from the moment they learned about the project after Reverend Mark and Reverend Lisa Caldwell Reiss, ministers at First Christian Church in Ft. Thomas for 14 years, moved to Berea. They had told Holly about one of the quilts that was on display in Berea.

The Spechts knew they wanted to be a part of it especially since Holly’s mother was a long time quilter whose first quilt she made was for Nicholas when he was born in 1983.

That very quilt lay on the lap of our Nicholas as he was in ICU awaiting the transplant surgery to gift what turned out to be be five women with his organs," Holly said.

The design they chose was a photo of Nicholas’ best friend, a boxer mastiff named Ruger who had been by Nicholas’ side through every hard time.

For the fabric, a pair of Nicholas’ jeans were used and some red wool that was from Nicholas’ childhood coat his aunt Heather Blackiston hand made.

Nicholas’ father, Eric and uncle Chris Stegner carefully measured and put together the photo for the square, and Jan Ball from Ball Embroidery, an elementary school friend of Holly’s did the embroidering. Nicholas’ grandmother, Carol Stegner, hand assembled the final touches.

Carol Stegner assembles the final piece. Photo provided

From the start to the finish, Nicholas's quilt square was completely assembled by family and friends that touched our lives, Nicholas's life,” Holly said.
"It took many hands to make this happen," said Holly Specht of her son, Nicholas' quilt square. Photo provided

After the square was designed, the Spechts attended a yearly dedication program in Lexington to donate the square where families came together for a luncheon, dedication, dove release and program that showed the faces of all the 30 new donors that will be represented on the next quilt. All of the quilts were on display, each telling a story.

It was a very special event,” Holly said.

A Donor Memorial Quilt Dedication took place in Lexington, Ky. where quilts were on display promoting organ donation awareness and honoring donor families. Photo provided

Although the Spechts have not met any of Nicholas’ donor recipients yet, they received a card from the woman that received his heart, thanking them on behalf of Nicholas, who she said because with his gift, she is alive and is able to celebrate seeing the birth of her first grandchild.

KODA Family Aftercare Manager Gretchen Starnes said, “I was thrilled that the Specht family had the quilt containing Nicholas’ quilt square in your area during Mother’s Day.

These quilts are treasured memorials. Each quilt is as unique as the individuals who are represented.

She added she was thankful for those spreading awareness about wonderful heroes like Nicholas and their amazing families.
Quilt #13 which reads, "Their Love Lives Forever Through the Gift of Organ and Tissue Donation." Photo provided
"It's such a noble cause,  added Eric Specht. The quilts are striking evidence that people from all walks of life, under all kinds of circumstances have made it possible to others to quite, literally, live."

The Donor Memorial Quilts are available for display at community events, hospitals, places of worship and other public venues throughout the state to promote organ and tissue donor awareness, and when they aren’t traveling, are displayed in KODA’s Louisville office.

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