Elizabeth Hartman struggled with health issues for years. She died in Bakersfield in 2016, just a week before her 52nd birthday.
But the story of this beloved wife and mother did not end there. More than 300 people showed up for his funeral. She was covered in memories of his generosity and kindness. His latest generosity was to save and improve the lives of many people through the donation of his organs and tissues.
“They told me at the time that Liz had helped at least eight people,” her husband, Brian Hartman, told a KGET reporter. “I know someone had their kidneys, someone had their corneas, they couldn’t use their lungs because of scoliosis, but I think they used the heart and a bunch of other stuff. .”
But Elizabeth’s story didn’t end there either.
The Lake Isabella woman was featured in January on “Courage to Hope,” the 2022 Donate Life Rose parade float.
The float included four walkers, who were living donors, as well as organ and tissue recipients; 15 runners, who were organ and tissue recipients, as well as living donors; and 35 “florographs”, or floral portraits representing organ, eye and tissue donors.
Elizabeth was nominated to appear on the float by JJ’s Legacy, a Bakersfield nonprofit created in memory of 27-year-old Jeffrey “JJ” Johns, who suffered severe brain damage in a 2009 car accident.
“He loved life. And he had the most beautiful smile. He loved smiling. He loved people,” JJ’s mother, Lori Malkin, told The Californian.
Recognizing the extent of his son’s injuries, Malkin agreed to donate JJ’s organs.
“He saved five lives, which is a miracle,” Malkin recalled. One person received a liver and a kidney, and another received Jeff’s pancreas. His donated tissues have improved the lives of 50 people and he has also donated his corneas.
“These people who were blind can now see sunrises and sunsets,” she said.
To promote local organ donation, Malkin created JJ’s Legacy. The year JJ died, the young man from Bakersfield was featured in the Rose Parade in a floragraph prepared by his family and included on the Donate Life float.
Recalling how moving and empowering the Rose Parade experience was for her and JJ’s family, Malkin pledged to honor a family of local donors in the same way each year.
Elizabeth’s family encourages others in Kern County to register as organ donors and provide life to those in need. Register as a donor with the DMV when you apply for or renew a California driver’s license or ID card. Simply check the box marked “YES!” on the application form. You can also go to https://register.donatelifecalifornia.org/register
Using a black-and-white photo as a guide, Elizabeth’s family got together and worked for nearly eight hours on her floral portrait, before the iconic New Year’s Eve parade began rolling down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. . Brian admits the experience was very emotional.
Elizabeth’s Rose Parade fluorograph, decorated with natural seeds, flowers, cream of wheat, chocolate and coconut, will be on display April 30 at the JJ Legacy fundraising gala. Go to www.jjslegacy.org.
In 2021, OneLegacy worked with 591 organ donors and facilitated 1,688 organ transplants in a seven-county region that includes Kern. OneLegacy is one of 57 nonprofit organ procurement organizations nationwide. Each is assigned a federally designated region to serve. In just Kern, OneLegacy had 31 donors and 85 transplanted organs last year.
Many people pre-declare their intentions on state and national registries to donate their organs when they die. But where such a guideline does not exist, OneLegacy works with families to understand how the donation of an organ or tissue by their loved ones can save and improve lives.
Tom Mone, CEO of OneLegacy, said: “Fifty to 60% of families say yes to organ, eye and tissue donation because they understand that more lives can be saved and they have the hope of know that their loved ones live in others through donation and transplantation”.