Hospital, families remember donations of bodies for science

Teachers, future doctors express gratitude for anatomical donors

June 20, 2000|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,SUN STAFF

Mary Ritter's daughter never had a chance at life.

"She died before she was born," Ritter said.

Yet Ritter's daughter, named Albany, might affect the lives of many people. When Ritter lost the baby 23 weeks into her pregnancy, she searched her heart and decided she would find a way for Albany to make a difference. So she donated Albany's brain tissue to medical research.

"It was sad," said Ritter, who lives in Carlisle, Pa. "But it made me feel a little better believing that something good would come out of this."

Yesterday, Ritter joined about 100 people at a service remembering those whose bodies were donated for medical education and research.

Under an overcast sky, family members sat in chairs on the green lawn of Springfield Hospital Center.

The interdenominational service included brief remarks from five people.

"This is a special and holy event," Chaplain Clayton Briley, who serves at Springfield Hospital Center. "You make it special and we thank you," he told those gathered.

About 500 to 600 bodies are used for medical research and study every year in Maryland, said Ronald S. Wade, the director of the State Anatomy Board, which is at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

The bodies are either donated to science or are unclaimed. They are used by Maryland's medical and dental schools. Ashes from the bodies are buried on the Springfield Hospital grounds, where a service has been held every year for since 1973, Wade said.

Wade read a proclamation issued by Gov. Parris N. Glendening that declared yesterday Anatomical Donor Appreciation Day. The governor, in the proclamation, thanked the donors for their "selfless gift."

Many of those present took pictures of a monument to donors. It reads: "This monument has been placed with deep appreciation for those who gave unselfishly of themselves to advance medical education and research."

A few of those who immediately benefited from the donors - mostly medical students - came to the service.

"We are here to pay our respects," said Sean Fox, 24.

"And to show gratitude," said Darryn Potosky, 22. Both will be second-year medical students in the fall.

Dr. Larry Anderson, in his first year as an anatomy instructor at the UM medical school, added his thanks during the ceremony.

"As instructors, we like to take credit for teaching, but it's really the donors who teach," he said. "It's a wonderful time to honor these individuals."

"They may not have been heroes to everyone when they were alive," he said. But upon their deaths and the donation of their bodies, they are heroes who are reaching out to generations, he said.

Cornell Queen and sisters Lisa Baker and Carol Baker, all of Columbia, held hands and prayed at the monument. Lisa Baker was 5 1/2 months pregnant when she and Queen lost their son, Cornell Marshall Queen Jr.

"I thought maybe it would help others," she said, explaining why she donated the baby's body for medical research. This was the second child she has lost.

"I lost a girl back in '96. Carla Maria. She's buried," Lisa Baker said. When she lost her first child, it was not brought to her attention that Carla Maria could have been a donor, Baker said.

Ritter, who has a healthy son who will be 5 years old Sunday, said she knows she did the right thing.

"She had a heart defect," she said of Albany. "She was so small, they could only use her brain tissue."

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