Barbara Glowacki-Moloney, 73, of Commerce, was able to find a silver lining in the cloud caused by her son's death in 2011 in offering to donate "the gift of life."
The family was shocked to lose Kirk Glowacki, 47, of Commerce, a construction worker by trade who was well-regarded by his mother, step-father and two brothers as generous with his time in volunteering to do hard work "for just about anyone who needed it" as well as a terrific uncle to his nephew and two nieces.
Without obvious symptoms or a history of stroke, Glowacki-Moloney said, Kirk fell victim to stroke and passed away after 10 days spent on life support in May 2011. Having never married, his family put his name on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, which includes 2.8 million other people who have offered various donations upon their death.
"He was relatively young, which meant that there was a high possibility his organs could be donated," Glowacki-Moloney said. "We were only sorry that he couldn't have donated more. ... He would've wanted it that way. He was a very loving, giving man."
Unfortunately, Kirk passed away in mere minutes after being taken off of life support and most of his healthy organs could not be preserved, according to Glowacki-Moloney. However, she said, she was told that her son's corneas were able to be transplanted through the Michigan Eye-Bank, and that his skin and bones were also available to be used by the 3,061 patients in-state currently waiting for an organ transplant.
"It makes dealing with the loss of a loved one easier, because you feel that their lives were not in vain," Glowacki-Moloney said. "To know that he has helped someone else in any way is an incredible feeling. I think it would have been a lot harder if we didn't do that."
Glowacki-Moloney added that she is able to continue plans for a tangible memorial to her son even after donation. His remains were cremated, Glowacki-Moloney said, and laid in Naples, FL, where she plans to be buried.
The Glowacki family gathered last weekend along with 400 other family members of organ, eye, and tissue donors to salute those who have saved and enhanced lives of thousands of transplant recipients in the past year. The event put on by nonprofit organizations Gift of Life Michigan and the Michigan Eye-Bank took place in the Diamond Banquet Center at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.
The event, now in its 20th year, was emceed Sunday by heart transplant recipient David Rozelle, of Kalamazoo, a Gift of Life Michigan Advisory Board member and retired Western Michigan University professor who received his gift of life 11 years ago.
Patrick Pruitt, of Ann Arbor, a cornea transplant recipient and a PhD student at the University of Michigan, shared how restoring his vision changed his life.
Participating donor families were invited to add quilt squares, personalized in honor of their loved ones, to a collection that currently includes 40 "Memories from Michigan" Donor Family Quilts. These tribute quilts are displayed at events around the state, emphasizing the personal stories behind every transplant.
"I know it's going to be a tearjerker, but it's wonderful to feel included in the community," Glowacki-Moloney said of the event. "They were so helpful and they were there for us. You only wish you could have done more."
To join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry and receive a heart emblem for the front of your driver's license or state identification card, visit giftoflifemichigan.org or call (800) 482-4881.