HCA Healthcare’s Plaza Medical Center Helps Give Soldier a Hero’s Send-Off

7 military service members standing together

Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Matthew James Whalen served his country with four tours of duty in the Middle East. His last act of service was saving more lives by being an organ donor at HCA Healthcare affiliate Plaza Medical Center of Fort Worth.

As his family was preparing for Christmas on Monday, the 35-year-old suffered a massive stroke and was transferred from another hospital to Plaza Medical Center for treatment. Although nothing could be done to save Staff Sgt. Whalen’s life, the caring staff at Plaza wanted to do something special to honor this fallen veteran and his family.

Robin Evans, a 30-year registered nurse at Plaza, worked with LifeGift to organize an impromptu color guard ceremony as an act of kindness and respect.

“It was very, very sad, but our Plaza employees who made this happen are heroes to me,” Evans said

As Mr. Whalen’s body was transported to the operating room, soldiers who served with him arrived in full dress uniform and stood at attention, with Plaza employees, some former military, to honor Staff Sgt. Whalen and his family.

A U.S. flag was placed on Mr. Whalen’s chest, along with the LifeGift organ donation flag that had flown over the hospital earlier in the day. He also was covered with a special organ donation quilt made by volunteers. The quilts are donated to cover each organ donor at Plaza, and are presented to the family after the donation. The special green and blue quilt has a patch that reads, “Give a Live, Save a Life.”

Plaza Medical Center CEO Clay Franklin said the event filled him with compassion for the patient’s family and with pride for Plaza and its amazing employees.

“The caring, kindness and sheer warmth that we offer to our patients, their families and each other is what our Plaza family is all about and directly connects to our mission,” Mr. Franklin said.

Watch the touching tribute from the local news station and the impromptu video ceremony that has since gone viral below.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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