Entire hospital floor at Freeman Health System stops to honor a Joplin man’s final gift


JOPLIN, Mo. — It’s a rare moment when the hustle and bustle of hospital life is put on pause.

Strangers showing respect for a life that’s come to an end.

KSN’s Erin Sullivan brings us to the very moment when an entire hospital floor at Freeman Health System stopped to honor a Joplin man’s final gift.

On Saturday 53-year-old Greg Swartz, a beloved member of the Joplin theater community, suffered a brain aneurysm.

Era Stone, Greg’s Friend, said, “It was very sudden.”

But in those fleeting hours, Greg’s friends and family found out about his final wishes.

“When we found out about it we thought, of course, that is absolutely Greg.”

Greg had chosen to be an organ donor.

Roxanna Estes, Freeman Health System Family Care Specialist, said, “It is an amazing thing if someone is able to be an organ donor. But it’s actually a rare event.”

Greg’s lungs, liver, and kidneys were all approved for donation.

“The families know that something good came out of something so terrible and so awful.”

But before he entered the operating room, the hospital hall fell quiet, for a tradition known as the Honor Walk.

“Between his family and his theater family, we lined the halls that evening,” said Stone.

Hospital staff, taking strangers by the hand forming something the theater community calls The Circle.

“Circle is a tradition in theater. Before every performance, we all join hands, cast and crew, right over left.”

Taking a moment to honor a man who is giving the ultimate gift.

“Having the staff join in and join in our tradition just spoke to the love that you could feel in the room for him. It was pervasive.”

“It’s breathtaking. I couldn’t believe the peace and calm in the hall as the staff were taking that person to the operating room,” said Estes.

Moments like these also shed light on the vital need for organ donors.

“Right now there’s about 120,000 folks waiting nationally for the gift of life through organ donation and one person is added to the list about every 11 minutes.”

Stone hopes sharing moments like Greg’s final escort, will inspire more people to consider being a donor.

“If that can get more people to sign up to be donors, that’s a nice consolation prize to losing such a fantastic guy,” said Stone.

You can sign up to be an organ donor online through Freeman Health System.

Next month, Freeman Health System and Mercy Hospital Joplin will host a celebration of life with the Midwest Transplant Network.

They’ll honor people like Greg, who gave the gift of life, and allow families of donors to meet organ recipients.

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