Now more than ever, Independence Blue Cross recognizes the invaluable role that nurses play in caring for our families and communities. To show our appreciation, we are honoring outstanding nurses in our region through the second annual Celebrate Caring campaign. As part of the campaign, we’re highlighting how our winners and honorees are making a difference in the community through compassion and superior care.
Christina Ryan wanted to be a nurse almost all her life and comes from a family of nurses, including her grandmother and several cousins.
Most people become nurses because they want to help people, said Christina, and for her, “the need to fix things,” is what motivated her to pursue her own nursing career. For the past 12 years at Gift of Life in Philadelphia, she’s put that desire to work helping thousands.
A Lifesaving Gift
Christina mentors and guides a staff of nurses and other health professionals who work with families and intensive care units across the region to coordinate the donation and procurement of life-saving organs and tissue. It’s a unique nursing role working with grief-stricken families in one of the most heart-wrenching times of their lives. But, as challenging as it is, it’s equally rewarding.
“Our job, which is definitely a team effort, is to help families find something positive in their loss, and to write the final chapter for their loved one so they continue to have a legacy through the gift of organ donation,” said Christina.
Organ donation — which includes not only major organs like hearts, lungs, livers and kidneys, but also tissues like corneas, skin, and heart valves — is much rarer than many people may realize. Only one to two percent of people die in a way that will allow their organs and tissues to be donated.
“In our region, there are 5,200 people waiting for that life-saving gift. Without it they will die. That’s why it’s so important for people to become organ donors,” said Christina, noting that people can register online in about 30 seconds.
A Life of Purpose
Christina’s nominator, Pam Bateman, is a friend and a nurse herself and knows personally how amazing Christina is at her job. “When I learned that a family relative had died tragically, I knew instantly that my dear friend Christina would be involved,” said Pam. “Christina helps take away some of the sting of a tragic situation by giving purpose, a gift of life.”
Christina, a triathlete, has also helped push Pam toward her fitness goals. The two volunteer with Ainsley’s Angels, a group of runners that help people with disabilities participate in races, including marathons and half marathons, by pushing them in specially designed racing chariots.