Organ donors can die of a gunshot wound, a stroke or in an instant with a brain aneurysm. Once the brain swells and hits the top of the skull, causing passageways for blood and oxygen to the brain to be closed off, it causes irreversible brain death.
Organ donors do not die of long-term illnesses; they die suddenly, which takes more time for families to cope with the realization of their loved ones’ deaths, Coppel said.
John Dunphy had no idea that a job like Coppel’s existed before July 18, when he got a call at his home in Boston from the UCLA Intensive Care Unit, where his son, Luke Dunphy, had been admitted at 2:30 p.m.
He jumped on a plane to Los Angeles as soon as he could. His son had been in a motorcycle accident on the San Diego (405) Freeway and died five days later, but not before donating his vital organs to patients all over Southern California.
During those agonizing five days, John Dunphy wasn’t alone. Coppel was at his side to provide information on organ donations and sometimes just a shoulder to cry on.
“You think you just register yourself as a donor and that’s the end of it, but no,” John Dunphy said. “There are people like [Coppel] that work hard for long hours. It’s an incredible job.”
Coppel helps families throughout Southern California get through the donation process about five times a week. Last year, OneLegacy organized 1,233 donations, according to the nonprofit’s website.
“I’ve found that it’s the outcome [that matters] for me,” Coppel said of the emotional toll the job takes on him.