Bert Steck was surprised to learn that his mother, Katherine, was a candidate for tissue donation. She was, after all, 101 years, five months, and three days old when she died in August 2022.
“I’m just proud she was able to do that.”
“My first reaction was that she was too old,” he said. “But she wasn’t, and we were very happy to hear that.”
What is the age limit for organ donation? There isn’t one.
Age is not always a limiting factor for people wanting to be donors. Medical criteria change, and patients are evaluated by medical staff when it’s time to determine if a person’s organs and tissues are healthy enough to help others. One of the oldest organ donors on record was a 92-year-old man whose liver saved the life of a 69-year-old.
After consulting with his sister, Dorothea, Bert decided his mother would have wanted to help other people.
Who can donate tissue?
Many donors can improve life for others with the gifts of skin, veins, nerves, bone, and corneas. Heart valves are considered lifesaving, and skin can save the lives of patients with severe burns. Like Katherine, potential donors are evaluated case-by-case to determine what they are eligible to give.
“She always said, ‘when I’m done with this body, it’s just a body. If someone can use it, they can use it,’” Bert said. Her gifts of tissue could help heal more than 75 people.
“She always showed a genuine interest in other people. When you talked with her, you really felt like she cared [about] what you were doing,” he said. “It wasn’t perfunctory. She related to people like that.”
Katherine’s family is grateful she provided a legacy of kindness and generosity.
Bert recently talked about the decision at his own church as they were celebrating Katherine’s life. “One of the things we talk about at church is giving beyond your lifetime,” he said. “Normally, what we’re hoping for is a financial donation, but I used this as an example of my mom giving beyond her life. It’s another way of thinking of things.”
“I’m just proud that she was able to do that,” he added. “I wanted to tell everybody.”