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Cameos of Caring® Donate Life Award

Mary Grace Hensell

Allegheny General Hospital

Mary Grace Hensell, MSN, RN, Director of Surgical Service, Allegheny General Hospital

When Donate Life honoree Mary Grace Hensell says, “Organ donation is a part of me and it only seems natural to help others receive a second chance,” she means it in a very personal way.

Six years ago, she lost her son, Brian, in a tragic automobile accident at just 24 years old. As a result of Mary Grace discussing organ donation and its benefits with her family, Brian had expressed his wishes to be an organ donor. Brian saved three lives as a liver, kidney, and pancreas donor.

Mary Grace has harnessed her experience to speak openly about her son’s legacy, helping to spread awareness about organ donation, and changing perceptions.

“Second chances at life are a true gift—and my son was able to provide that gift. He is my hero. My job is to help others understand the need and the impact of organ donation, and become heroes, like him,” said Mary Grace.

And that’s exactly what she’s dedicated her life to. Through her own experience, Mary Grace has been instrumental in helping the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) cater to the needs of families undergoing the donation process. Examples include hiring a grief counselor and providing education for funeral directors on sensitivities associated with organ donation.

She also led the first double hand transplant team, and formed the teams for the face and penile transplants at Johns Hopkins.

According to Melvin Protzman, her son’s heart recipient, “Mary Grace has a strong commitment and advocacy for the education of organ and tissue donation. I am living proof of her work—and her son’s gift to me is eternal.”

Truly an incredible testament to Mary Grace Hensell, a woman that rose above her own pain to save the lives of others.