By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LOVELAND - Julie Tutt loved life. So it's fitting that she gave several others the gift of life, said her parents.
Tutt was a vivacious and beautiful 38-year-old sports lover with chin-length blonde hair and a wide grin. She suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in her Hyde Park apartment in January 2003.
Pat Nutting of Westchester with her daughter, Nikole Gibson of Covedale, at LifeCenter's annual ceremony honoring the families of organ donors.
(Melissa Heatherly photo)
Once Tutt was admitted to the hospital with severe brain damage, her brother, Stephen, broached the topic of organ donation with the rest of the family.
"We thought it's what she might have wanted, but we still wondered if it was the right thing," said her mother, Sue.
Then the transplant team arrived with a copy of Tutt's drivers license, which had an organ donor logo.
"That made us feel so good. It wasn't just our decision," said father Eddie. "We were doing what Julie wanted."
Dozens of people, including the Tutts, were honored Sunday at the Oasis Conference Center during a ceremony for those who donated a loved ones' organs, tissue or eyes. The service, sponsored by LifeCenter Organ Donor Network, U.S. Tissue and Cell and the Cincinnati Eye Bank, celebrated the families of about 250 local donors from 2003.
The keynote address was given by Dr. Steve Woodle, director of University Hospital's transplant division with a 16-year career as a transplant surgeon under his belt. Woodle also waited 60 days for a life-saving liver, receiving his transplant in October 2003.
"I thank you for my donor," he said, during an emotional speech to the families. "I thank you for all the donors."
Also at the ceremony were participants of A Ride Across America. Members of the nonprofit organization are currently riding all-terrain vehicles across the United States, from Santa Monica, Calif., to New York City, to raise public awareness about the need for organ and tissue donation.
Rider Brian Kootz spoke to the crowd about his own liver transplant.
"You all held your hand out so someone like me, someone you've never met, never heard of, could live," he said. "I'm alive today because of you."
The gift really comes from the donors themselves, though, said the Tutts.
"Julie had already made the decision, so this was her gift," said her mother.
She then recited a quote that was used during a memorial service for Julie Tutt.
"'Some people die who have never really lived, and others continue to live despite the fact they've really died,'" said her mother.
"And that about says it all."
To become a donor
More than 250 men, women and children in Greater Cincinnati are in need of organ transplants.
When you make a decision about organ and tissue donation, tell your family and sign a donor card, available from LifeCenter, the organ procurement organization that coordinates organ recovery for Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana.
Preferably, have your family witness your signature on the donor card.
For more information, contact LifeCenter at 558-5555, toll-free at 800-981-5433 or online at www.lifecnt.org.
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