Oakland Police officer John Hege's heart is beating for someone else this morning, as the city plans to mourn him, and three other officers, killed in the line of duty last weekend. His mother says his lungs couldn't be transplanted because of the bullet wounds, but his kidneys and liver and heart gave four men another reason, this week, to be grateful to him.
Hege's heart went to a 73-year old man. His right kidney went to a 56-year old man. The left, went to a 42-year old man, and his liver went to a 56-year old man. The Transplant network says all the surgeries were done Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and all were successful.
If you're wondering how you can honor the fallen officers, this link is a good place to start.
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A huge funeral is planned today for those four Oakland Police officers. It's at Oracle Arena, which I've never heard of, and I'm from the East Bay. Well, I'm out of touch ... Oracle Arena is actually the Oakland Coliseum. It has been a while.
But I know exactly where the Piedmont Community Center is, and have been searching all morning for stories on Hege's private memorial there, which was held last night. Here are some of the images of John Hege as I remember him:
My High School friends have been posting these old yearbook photos on their Facebook pages, and telling stories about the boy we remember from Piedmont High. I was at the Community Center a year or two ago for my older siblings' reunion, which took place right after a Friday night football game in my tiny, sheltered hometown. Piedmont is a little island in the middle of Oakland, where the median home value is still above a million dollars. Oakland is just the city view in front of the Bay and "The" City from the Piedmont hills. It seems worlds away from there, and at first I couldn't believe that the officer pictured in the news was the same as my Piedmont classmate.
I think that's what happens, as most of us go through our lives, oblivious of what's happening to people just like us, right next door. We think, that can't possibly happen to us, or to ours.
But it does happen, and understanding that and running toward it head-on is what makes people like John Hege heroes. He wanted to make a difference in law enforcement, so he just went for it. Oakland PD. And he knew the risks, which is why he signed up to be an organ donor last year.
My old High School Civics teacher, Rich Kitchens, kept in touch with John and lived near him. Mr. Kitchens (I still can't use his first name!) is the Assistant Principal now, and a few of my facebook friends (Mr. Kitchens among them) are trying to get something at the High School dedicated to John's memory. I wonder about the Community Center, adjacent to the High School, where John was remembered last night. He left the comfort of the suburbs, and gave his life serving the community that needed help the most.
This story in the Contra Costa times this morning gives a good summary of last night's memorial for John, with some comments from his mother Tamra:
"John donated his heart, his liver and kidneys" to save another's life, Tamra Hege said. "He could not donate his lungs because of his bullet wounds."
Tamra Hege recalled her son's desire to be an Oakland police officer "because that's where the action was." "That's what he did. He loved what he did. He was good at it," she said. "We always supported his decision to become a policeman in Oakland."
John's parents, John and Tamra, are heroes too.