While Nathan Streeter’s time on Earth was brief, he leaves an impact that will be felt for many years to come. The 31-year-old loved filmmaking, baseball, traveling by plane and having books read to him. He also had several chronic health diagnoses, including cerebral palsy, but through perseverance he did not let it slow him down. He began attending Davis Community and Employment Services in 2012 for 20-30 hours per week. During this last year, he was kept at home under 24-7 care except for medical appointments. Sutter Care at Home and Yolo Hospice nurses also visited him at home several days each week. Nathan passed away on March 31 due to complications from his health conditions.
Nathan’s parents, Steve and Nancy, gain comfort knowing he is now free from the health challenges he encountered. They also know that he lives on through others thanks to the gift of organ donation.
“Nathan will bless and extend the lives of numerous people,” Steve said.
Each April, Donate Life America leads National Donate Life Month. The observance focuses national attention on the need and importance of organ, eye and tissue donation. National Donate Life Month stresses the value of registering to be a donor, honoring deceased and living donors—recognizing that their generosity makes saving lives through transplantation possible.
Even amid their grief, Steve and Nancy realized they had an opportunity to educate others about organ donation. This was also the first time Sutter Davis Hospital would play an integral part in organ recovery. The Streeters’ community hospital, which had cared for Nathan numerous times over the years, would now be the place where his lasting legacy would be set into motion.
“Staff was so honored to care for Nathan and support his family in this very special way,” said Harpreet Bains, nurse manager of the intensive care and medical-surgical units at Sutter Davis Hospital. “They were moved to tears.”
Jackie Santiago is one of those team members. A registered nurse for 30 years—25 of those years at Sutter Davis—she cared for Nathan several times in the ICU. She also has a very personal connection to organ donation. Santiago lost her brother in a tragic accident two years ago. Her family made the decision to donate his organs and tissue.
Helping a family go through that process was meaningful to Santiago. In what she characterized as “the worst day of her life” when she lost her brother, she and other family members were comforted knowing he will help others live on.
“I love nursing. Nursing is not what I do, but who I am,” she said. “To give [Nathan] TLC in his final moments knowing that would carry onto others…” her voice trailed off, her gratitude evident and lingering beyond her words.
When Nathan’s brain activity had ceased and the family made the decision to proceed with organ recovery, a very delicate and detailed process began. Sierra Donor Services, which supports and facilitates organ and tissue donation services in Northern California and Northern Nevada, began searching for the best matches for Nathan’s precious, transplantable organs. With Nathan on a ventilator, Sierra Donor Services and Sutter Davis Hospital clinical teams worked together to keep his organs viable for donation by continuing a flow of oxygen to them. Once Sierra Donor Services located matches, their team along with hospital staff started final preparations for organ recovery.
In the moments leading up to the recovery, more than 50 team members from Sutter Davis Hospital and Sierra Donor Services lined the halls to express their condolences and gratitude to Nathan and his parents.
“Without any encouragement or direction, the team walked together down the hall with the family and stayed with them as they shared stories about their son,” said Tammy Powers, chief nurse executive at Sutter Davis Hospital. “It was such an honor to be with the family and surround them with care and compassion in those moments.”
“The Streeter family, and Nathan in particular, became a part of our extended family here at the hospital,” said Rachael McKinney, CEO of Sutter Davis. “Supporting their wishes and keeping them close to home at such a crucial time was extremely important. We support a close-knit community and are so grateful that they place their trust in us for their care.”
On average, someone joins the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. Nearly 110,000 Americans are currently on the organ donation waiting list, including more than 21,000 Californians. Nathan’s heart, lungs, liver and kidneys will help patients live with greater comfort and ease. The Streeters could never have imagined all the ways their son’s life could impact them and others.
“He gave us everything and we are very proud to have been his parents,” said Nancy.
“Those with disabilities can contribute to organ donation, which is important for others to know,” added Steve.
According to Sierra Donor Services, one donor has the potential to save up to eight lives through organ donation and improve the lives of 75 or more through tissue donation. Californians can register online at BeTheGiftToday.com or at the California DMV.