PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Four Portland Police officers have something in common — they have each received life-saving organ transplants.
Three of the Portland Police Bureau officers spoke to KOIN 6 News about what it meant to receive this ultimate gift of life.
“We have so much in common in that regard,” Sgt. Margaret Bahnson told KOIN 6 News. “We can speak the language that others don’t really speak.”
Bahnson and her colleagues, Detective Todd Teats and Officer Julia Rico, each received life-saving liver transplants after doctors told them they might not make it.
“They said, you probably have 10 hours left or 12 hours left,” Detective Teats said.
The officers, who are sworn to serve and protect the public, were saved by complete strangers.
“It’s a gift everyday,” Officer Rico said. “I felt so guilty because there are so many thousands of people who die everyday and don’t get a transplant, and I thought, ‘why did God spare me?’ I am so thankful from the bottom of my heart.”
Officer Rico, who has been with the Portland Police Bureau for 24 years, is now working to locate runaway children. Since her liver transplant in 1998, Rico has won almost a dozen awards for her police work.
“Every morning when you wake up, you look at life 100% different because I’m lucky to be here,” Officer Rico said.
Sgt. Bahnson, who oversees the bureau’s Forensic Evidence Division, received two liver transplants — one in 2006, and another in 2010.
“I have gratitude in my heart to both those families,” Sgt. Bahnson said. “I want them to know that I think of them everyday. I think of my donor everyday. That’s not a cliche, that’s pretty accurate. Driving to work on a beautiful day like today. I want those families to know it really matters, they’re never forgotten.”
Detective Teats from the bureau’s gang unit joined the transplant club last summer, when a young man from Washington saved his life.
“It came from someone who was young, in their 20s, from the Seattle area,” Detective Teats said. “I owe my life to him.”
In the Pacific Northwest there are over 3,000 people on a waiting list to receive life-saving organ transplants. Nationally, there are over 120,000 people, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Seventy-four percent of Oregon residents are on the Organ Donor Registry, a substantial increase from the mere three percent that were registered in 1975. Donate Life Northwest attributes today’s high numbers to the DMV’s commitment to asking their customers if they would like to register.