Christy Keahey moved into the Legacy of Hope executive director role on June 1, 2023. To help get to know her better and look forward to the goals she has for the organization, we asked her a few questions about her connection to organ donation and what she loves most about the mission.
Q: What inspired you to work for this mission?
A: “I’ve always been a believer of organ donation ever since I received my first driver’s license and said I wanted to be a registered donor. And I’ve known pretty much most of my life that I wanted to be a nurse and work in health care. I became an LPN in 1995 and then obtained my RN in 1999 where I went to work in a critical care unit at a hospital in Tallahassee. In 2001, I saw an ad for an organ procurement coordinator and found the description of the role fascinating. I applied and was given the opportunity to join this industry. I can’t imagine doing anything else, it truly is an honor to be able to walk along the families. And while I don’t get to be on the frontlines, I still take great pride in living through my team members who are supporting our families as we move our mission forward.”
Q: What excites you the most about moving into the executive director role?
A: “We have a fantastic leadership team that we have created and cultivated here at Legacy of Hope. I have never worked with so many dedicated and skilled professionals in their areas of expertise. I really enjoy working with them day in and day out so having the opportunity to continue that work in a slightly different way is what I’m most excited about. And of course, through them, continuing to impact our frontline team members who are out there doing the very hard work of making donation possible.”
Q: What are your top priorities that you hope to accomplish in this next year?
A: “It would be to continue to maximize our mission. We have achieved year-over-year record growth with organ and tissue donation. In our minds, we will not stop until there’s no one waiting for a transplant. We’re at a point in our performance excellence journey of fine tuning improvements and focusing on details instead of making big overarching sweeping changes. My focus moving forward is how can we build upon the gains that we’ve made? How can we make donation happen more efficiently and better support our families as we move them through the donation journey? So for me, that’s a tremendous focus moving forward.”
Q: You’ve had this long career in the organ donation mission, is there a moment that stands out to you as one of the most impactful?
A: “I have so many stories that I could share regarding making connections with donor families and feeling like I made a difference for them, as they found solace in donation during one of the most traumatic times in their life.
But for me, it’s seeing the impact that donation can have on a grieving family, and really defining the word ‘family’ beyond just immediate family. Several years ago, we had a police officer who was killed in the line of duty and became an organ donor. And we worked very hard with members of the law enforcement community to make certain that that sergeant was honored. And then how could we support the law enforcement community through the loss of one of their compatriots or comrades? The law enforcement community is a very tightly woven community and a death of one of their own is a ripple effect that is felt throughout the country.
Another impactful moment that sticks out for me was one time we had a guest speaker who came and presented his story. He was a law enforcement officer and skin tissue recipient who was in a crash while on duty where his car exploded and he had burns over his face, upper torso and over the majority of his body. He put something into perspective for me that I had never thought of. He had a slideshow where he shared his journey before and after his injury. Shortly after he was released from the hospital from receiving multiple skin grafts to help him survive, he and his wife actually had another child. He said, ‘not only did organ donation save my life, it created a whole other life because if I weren’t here, my son wouldn’t be here.’ I had never thought of it that way but to hear him describe it was truly meaningful, and still a story I share today.”
Q: You knew that you wanted to work in health care, has it been everything that you thought it could be?
A: “I knew from the time I was in kindergarten that I wanted to be a nurse. And that never wavered. Being a member of a healthcare team is one of the most impactful things that an individual can do. Stepping in and supporting families, patients, recipients and donors that are going through indescribable difficulty and helping them carve their way is just an honor. So, yeah, I made the right decision.
The overarching way I want to lead our organization is having a dedication to the mission as our focus. Until there is a donation and transplantation system where no one has to wait for a life-saving transplant, we’ve got work to do and Legacy of Hope is dedicated to that work. Because we’re dedicated to the families that we support, and the people we’ll never meet. That’s how I want to lead forward.”