Every year, the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) sponsors one tissue recipient from an accredited institution to have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride on the Donate Life Float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. After receiving dozens of nominations from across the nation, the AATB selected Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) Volunteer Jim Vidas to ride on the 2020 Donate Life Float on New Year’s Day.
In November 2011, Jim was the victim of a house fire. Without warning, his home burst into flames severely burning Jim’s upper body, face and head. Donated tissue prevented fluid loss and infection, helping his skin to heal and save his life. The worst pain, however, was not from the burns, the surgeries or the loss of his home. Instead, it was from the unbearable loss of his wife, Sandra, who died in the fire. Jim recalls the fateful moment that would change his life forever. “When we woke up and discovered the fire, I ran to the right to open the deadbolt on the front door and shouted to my wife to follow me. Scared of the wall of flames, she went in the opposite direction, back to the bedroom.”
Sandra was a strong, determined and compassionate partner. The pain of losing her is with Jim every single day, as he misses her terribly. A few years later, Jim, grateful for his lifesaving gift from a tissue donor, decided to give back and become a Donate Life Ambassador with WRTC. Since 2015, he has attended more than 60 community education and hospital events, volunteering more than 100 hours of his time.
In 2018, Jim received the WRTC Shining Star Volunteer of the Year Award for his dedication to promoting organ, eye and tissue donation. Jim often shares his incredible story of resiliency and hope with medical staff and nurses who have devoted their lives’ work to care for patients. Every time he has a speaking engagement, he summons the courage to talk about his wife Sandra and dedicate the presentation in her honor.
Jim carries a baton of positivity and light to keep Sandra’s memory alive. He has the unique ability to make everybody feel like somebody, reminding each person they have the power to change someone’s life. He has been unwavering in his commitment to donation advocacy and is the perfect person to represent WRTC and tissue recipients to a national audience.
Jim is also involved in providing peer support to burn survivors at Washington Hospital Center. When Jim is not at work or volunteering, he enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren, refereeing sports and traveling.