Kim Harter is a registered nurse who has served on the Labor and Delivery unit at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph for 23 years and now serves as its interim manager. Allan Thomas is a respiratory therapist who has served at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis for 29 years and now serves as director of Respiratory Therapy for the Wichita hospitals.
Although the two have never met, they recently connected in a meaningful way when respiratory therapist Melanie Northcutt gave Harter an envelope, along with the suggestion that she might want to wait to open it until she got home.
Harter did as Northcutt suggested and opened it at home. Inside was a hand-written note from Thomas along with a prayer flag like the one he had hung at Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal in memory of her son, Samuel, who died of injuries suffered in a skateboarding accident on April 11, 2019.
"I pray that you may find comfort in knowing that we lifted Samuel up in prayers from the top of the world and as close to Heaven as I could get," said the note from Thomas.
Thomas, a well-traveled outdoorsman and mountaineer, has visited the highest peaks in several continents. On his second Himalayan adventure in October 2019, as a way to bring awareness and to honor donors, recipients and the Transplant Honor Walks held at Ascension Via Christi, he placed a flag with the Donate Life organ, eye and tissue donation logo and Midwest Transplant Network’s name and another flag with Ascension’s name and logo, to add to the colorful Tibetan prayer flags and one with Samuel’s name strung along the trails and peaks of Everest Base Camp 17,600 feet above sea level.
It’s said that Himalayans believe that when winds blow the prayer flags, they carry the blessings, good will and compassion embodied in their images and writings across the land.
Although he didn’t know Kim personally, Thomas says he knew about her son’s passing earlier that year and that Samuel had given the final gift of life through organ donation.
“Their stories are heavy on my heart all of the time,” says Allan of Samuel and other donor heroes. “With Kim being one of our associates here, that’s why I felt compelled to do that for her.”
Last month, Thomas decided it was time to share a note with Harter and send a prayer flag for her to keep.
"I was blown away," says Harter. "I couldn't imagine a total stranger doing such a wonderful thing. It shows a lot about his character."
While the note brought tears to her eyes, they were joyful ones, knowing that her son's memory and his gift of life as an organ donor lives on.
"It made my day," says Harter, whose son Sam would have celebrated his18th birthday on June 7. Instead, family and friends celebrated him and the gift of life that he gave to others at a Midwest Transplant Legacy Walk.