Skip to Content

Phoenix VA partners with Donate Life Arizona to help save lives

Donor Day at Phoenix VA
Matthew Owen, a double transplant recipient, spoke at Donor Day at the Phoenix VA. He is seen on the far right next to Phoenix VA Deputy Medical Center Director Michael Welsh, Phoenix VA Donor Network Liaison Curtis Cooper, the Donor Cactus, Phoenix VA Associate Director of Operations Stacey Scherpf, and Phoenix VA Donor Network Peer Leader Cori Chapman.

After Air Force Veteran Matthew Owen returned from his final deployment in 1999, his doctor diagnosed him with IgA Neuropathy (also known as Berger disease), which is a disease that has no cure.

Years later, in 2014, he received the news that his liver was shutting down. He was going to die if he didn't receive a liver transplant. In 2017, he received that transplant and a new hope.

This is a story that Owen was glad to share at the Phoenix VA as part of a Donate Life event that was done in partnership with Donate Life Arizona at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center, April 24.

April is National Donate Life Month, and the Phoenix VA raised the Donate Life flag to celebrate the miracle of organ and tissue donation and recognize the generous donors who have given the gift of life.

Owen’s donor transplant testimony didn’t end in 2017. Years later, in 2023, the doctors told Owen that his kidneys were functioning at only 7%, so he went on the list for a donor March. Since the process to find a deceased donor can often take three to five years, he was told there was not enough time for that. This time, instead of waiting on a list, Owen was faced with finding someone who would be willing donate a kidney to him.

As Owen spoke of his trials and receiving these life-saving gifts a crowd of staff and Veterans stopped to listen. Some, who had to move on for work or an appointment, took a moment to get information on becoming a donor, while others filled out the form right there to become a donor.

“Today, we call attention to the great need for lifesaving and life-healing transplants,” said Curtis Cooper, the event coordinator and Phoenix VA Donor Network Liaison. “We honor the many generous individuals and their families who have chosen to share life through donation, and we celebrate the lives that have been saved and healed through these incredible gifts.”

In 2023, Owen was one of the 865 lives saved in Arizona thanks to the generosity of organ donors. Additionally, thousands more were healed by the state’s tissue, eye, heart valve and placenta donors. However, more 1,600 Arizonans are still waiting to receive a lifesaving organ transplant.

While Owen’s story is ongoing, his hope has returned, and he speaks with a smile when he tells of how the gift of a kidney saved him. Owen asked far and wide for anyone who would be willing to donate a kidney to him, and in June of 2023 he received a new kidney – from a girl he knew in high school: Teri Berg.

“Hope and generosity are spreading throughout the state, as more than 4.5 million Arizonans have said ‘yes’ to one day sharing the gift of life,” said Cooper. “I encourage you to join these generous Arizonans and register as a donor today.”

Owen, who comes to the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center regularly to receive his dental care, was glad to come this day give care to his fellow Veterans. Owen, who turned 58 the day after the Donate Life event, believes this kidney will be with him for a long time.

If you are interested in being a donor, you can sign up online at, or say “Yes,” to donation when visiting an Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division or an authorized third party office to update or renew a driver license or ID.