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WMed body donation program serves as a life-saving legacy, and a family comfort

The Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine is now accepting “self-donations." (WWMT)

After a love-at-first-sight encounter in a coffee shop, Pam Carroll and her husband, Jim, were married for 45 years.

“He was loving, he was funny and he was awfully good looking,” Pam said. But one day in 2016, the love story that started so quickly, ended just as fast. Pam came home from grocery shopping and found Jim collapsed on the floor. He was gone. Pam remembers just how desperate she felt.

“I didn’t know what to do. I’d never been in that type of situation," she said.

Just hours later a police detective mentioned to Pam that she could donate Jim’s body to the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. They could take him right away and they would take care of everything. Their students would study his body, learning anatomy and pathology, and then Jim’s cremated remains would be returned to Pam at no charge.

“I thought it was a great idea. It solved the problem. Jim would be taken care of. And I didn’t have to worry about it,” Pam said.

“It’s that last thing that you can do, ... to change the world,” said Dr. Wendy Lackey, one of the instructors at the medical school.

Lackey said her students also learn about compassion through the school’s body donation program. They get to know a lot about the donor’s lives and, sometimes, even their surviving family members.

“These students have dreamed for a long time about being a physician,” Lackey. “They know these donor families are playing a huge role in making their dreams come true.”

Every year at WMed, the students plan and hold a memorial service for the donors' families. It’s another way they can express their gratitude to the families providing the gift of their loved ones. It’s brought some closure to Pam, and to many others.

"Every time I drive by here I just nod my head and say, hi Jimmy, and go on my way,” Pam said, then smiled. “It’s a great program. Anybody else that needs it or wants it. They should do it. In fact in my will, I put it in that I’m going to do it, too.”

The program accepts “self-donations."

Lackey said a donor may specify that they’d like their body to be given to science, or a surviving family member can make the decision. Either way, the donated body will become an invaluable resource and will be treated with great respect and care.

Carroll said it also was a help to her.

“It’s very soothing and educational all at the same time," Carroll said. "It’s a blend. And it helped me a lot.”


For more information on the program, contact the WMed staff at 844-366-9633, send an email to bodydonation@med.wmich.edu or check out the program website.

Follow Andy Dominianni on Facebook and on Twitter.

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