Mesa woman says late husband became organ donor to have ‘huge impact’
PHOENIX — Arizona set a new record with 315 organ donors providing transplants that saved the lives of 790 people last year.
Marie Bernard Johnson of Mesa hopes those numbers continue to rise.
Her husband Stephen Bradford Johnson, 41, became an organ donor after he passed away from a stroke on Sept. 8, 2020.
“My husband always thought about ways to help people in the world, but he never could come up with an idea,” Marie told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
“He wanted to have a huge impact and in his passing, he was able to do that.”
In addition to his desire to help others, Marie said her husband had an immense interest in nature and animals.
The couple had up to 12 pets at one point, including dogs, cats, frogs, birds and a gecko.
“He would just show up from PetSmart, come to the house and he would say something like, ‘I brought us something we’ve never had before,’” she said.
A month before his passing, they talked about last wishes. Marie said Stephen expressed an interest in helping others through organ donation.
So when she was asked at the hospital if she wanted to donate his organs, she knew that’s what he would want. She saw it as an opportunity to make that impact he always wanted.
“I would love for him to be here and know that ‘Yeah, you did make an impact. You have a legacy. You did help people,’” she said.
Stephen saved three men with his organ donation. Now, Marie encourages others to join the 60% of Arizonans who’ve registered as organ, eye and tissue donors.
“The fact that you’re gifting someone else extra time, that would just change not just their lives, but everyone around them – their friends, their families,” she said.
Nico Santos, a spokesperson for Donor Network of Arizona, noted each organ donor has the potential to save up to eight lives.
Donors can also offer healing to many more through eye and tissue donations.
Last year, more than 1,600 Arizona tissue donors offered healing to over 123,000 people, and about 900 ocular donors restored vision for up to two people each.
There were also more Black donors and more Latino organ recipients last year than ever before.
Santos told KTAR News 92.3 FM these numbers show “Arizona’s generosity is not wavering” even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re just blown away by that, and we’re grateful for the generosity of the donors and their families who made that possible,” he said.
You can register to become an organ, eye and tissue donor at DonateLifeAZ.org or by visiting your local Arizona Motor Vehicle Division office.