Editor’s note: Welcome to Eversight Orbit! A new blog series featuring the remarkable people who comprise Eversight’s vast network. Get to know the dedicated team members and partners who play a critical role in making vision a reality.
By Caroline Miller, Marketing & Communications Specialist
In 2012, Dawn Shipp lost her mom, Annette. At the time of her passing, Dawn’s brother asked the hospice nurse if their mom was eligible for organ donation. She wasn’t, but as the nurse was turning away, she stopped and said Annette could possibly be an eye donor. That one exchange changed the course of Dawn’s life forever.
Dawn and her family had never heard of eye donation, but they all agreed they should say yes. Eversight’s call center reached out to the family and Dawn was the one to complete the paperwork that began the cycle of giving the gift of sight.
Two years later, Dawn and her family attended Eversight’s Donor Family Gathering event, in partnership with Gift of Life Michigan, that honors the donors and their families of the previous year who gave the gifts of sight, life and mobility.
“It was an experience I will never forget,” Dawn said. “It was beautiful. It was connecting. The gratitude was amazing. All the donor families were treated like kings and queens.”
Shortly after that, Dawn’s family received an invitation to a donor remembrance ceremony, held at Eversight, then known as the Midwest Eye-Banks. Dawn and her siblings were given a tour of the facility where they could see a cornea, hear from a recipient and witness a prayer for everyone’s loved ones.
During that ceremony, Dawn got a feeling.
“I remember saying when I was there, ‘I think I'm supposed to work here,’ and I said it in the building to my brother and he's like, ‘really?’ and I said ‘yes, I feel it,’” she said.
In 2015, Dawn started checking Eversight’s website for job openings, but there were none. At the time, she was a retail manager with no experience in the field, thinking she had nothing to offer. That didn’t stop her from submitting her resume.
“In the body of the email, I said I didn’t have any medical background, but I've got experiences that I feel could be utilized with this company, one way or another,” she said. “Right before I hit send, I heard this voice that told me, put in there that you're a donor family and so I did.”
Dawn was called in for an interview and was told that the one thing that set her apart from the other applicants was that she was a donor family member. Dawn was hired in the only position available at the time in the Donation Support Center (DSC), the same call center that spoke to her after her mom’s passing.
Almost a decade later, Dawn is a Clinical Operations Manager at Eversight, managing the DSC’s day shift of 14 staff.
“I think my mom and dad were talking to me, telling me to put that in there,” she said. “My mom was such a giver, you know, we all have people in our lives that are just givers, and to this day, she still gives to me. She gave me Eversight, the job I love.”
Dawn oversees the operations of the DSC, working in tandem with Erin Papkey, the night shift manager. They focus on training, educating and developing the department.
The DSC is the first interaction potential donor families have with Eversight. When DSC team members are notified of a potential donor, they reach out to their family to discuss eye donation.
Like much of Eversight, the department operates 24/7/365, —they work on holidays, weekends, in bad weather and overnight.
“We approach families 24 hours a day, so we will attempt to reach families at 2 o'clock in the morning, 4 o'clock in the morning, sometimes 30 minutes after their loved one has passed away,” Dawn said.
Working in the DSC can be a very emotional job. One way Dawn supports her team is by creating an environment that encourages laughter, taking breaks and spending time together to decompress.
In her role, Dawn loves mentoring her shift supervisors and coordinators, speaking with families who are grateful that Eversight was able to move forward with their loved one’s donation, and honoring the gift and its intention.
“When people talk about what it's like to talk to a family... I'm that family,” Dawn said. “I was on the other end; I completed the paperwork. I answered those questions that are very personal. Maybe that's why I feel like I can connect more to families. Donation can have a lasting effect on people in one way or another.”
2024 will mark Dawn’s ninth year with Eversight, helping to change lives and make vision a reality for people worldwide.
“What Eversight does and what we all do collectively is an intricate weave of compassion, empathy and support.”
You can learn more about Eversight’s Donation Support Center here.