Doctors, families of donors meet those they helped save at event celebrating hospital’s 50th anniversary

Posted at 9:29 PM, Sep 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-09 23:29:19-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- It was a celebration of renewed life at Heritage Park Wednesday evening. Dozens of families who have received organ donations at University Hospital had the chance to meet the donor families and doctors who helped save their lives, and it was all part of University Hospital's 50th anniversary.

"I thought I was dead, there was no coming back from where I was," said former patient Nathan Sterner.

It turns out Sterner is still very much alive, and he gives Dr. Robin Kim all the credit.

"Being able to see the man who saved my life is unbelievable, it's tear jerking for me because I didn't think I would ever see my family again," Sterner said.

Sterner is successfully recovering from a kidney transplant. He was one of a record 200 people to receive transplants at University Hospital in 2014. On Wednesday, some of them saw their doctors for the first time since surgery.

"To see him now, from this angle, eye-to-eye instead of lying on my back is a little different," Sterner said.

Dr. Kim said seeing patients doing well and having fun in a social setting is the best thanks a doctor can receive.

"He was in need, and we thought that we could do something for him, and now we are standing as equals and this is what we wanted to get to," Kim said.

Many of these transplant recipients have gone on to be ambassadors for organ donation, like Justin Iorii, who is also reconnecting with the doctor who performed his 2013 kidney transplant.

"They perform these beautiful miracles with their hands and their special knowledge, and to be able to finally meet them is a true blessing," Iorii said.

Iorii's doctor, Dr. Jeffrey Campsen, said the feeling is mutual.

"They leave the hospital, and it's nice to see them full circle, they come back, he looks wonderful, he's got color in his face, he's healthy, he's doing great," Campsen said.

Dr. Terry Box knows what it's like to be on both sides of the operating table. He performed liver transplants for decades, then, in 2002, he realized he needed a new liver of his own.

"Solid organ transplant, tissue transplant, bone marrow transplant, has saved the lives, has given the health back, to literally thousands of Utahns," Box said