Tissue Donation Puts Emergency Manager Back in Action

Leigh Cowan | Tissue recipient

As an emergency manager for a consulting firm, Leigh Cowan is always on the go. Her home base is Jacksonville, Fla., but she’s usually on the road dealing with everything from hurricanes to floods to fires to tornadoes. In 2020, she spent six months helping New York City create plans to address future waves of COVID-19.

Leigh Cowan“The joke is if I show up at your door, it’s a bad day,” she said. “Everything that people are running away from, we’re typically running into it.”

Given her line of work, Leigh also has a knack for preventing accidents. On Father’s Day her heads-up thinking prevented her family’s boat from crashing as they returned from an outing — but it came at a price. “We were headed back to the dock, and I could tell he was coming in too fast,” she said. “I jumped out and threw my leg out to kind of bounce off the dock as I have done so many times before. But this time I ended up tearing my ACL.”

Because of the injury, Leigh was unable to work. She ended up stuck on the couch, unable to travel, work out or do simple things around the house. But the real frustration was not being able to go tackle an emergency in person.

Leigh eventually had surgery to repair her ACL using the gift of donor tissue. There were many benefits to this option, including a shorter recovery time, since her doctor did not have to take part of her hamstring to make the repair. This meant she could get back to saving lives that much sooner.

Leigh reported little pain after the procedure, and she only used crutches for a week. But the best part is being back on the job. “The impact in just my one ACL repair — I can go out and save hundreds of thousands of lives at the state and federal level.”

Thanks to this experience, Leigh is a big advocate of donation. She’s now registered as a donor, and would consider living donation if she turns out to be a match for someone. “To be able to say thank you to a donor family is hugely important to me,” Leigh said. “Without the gift of donation, I’d be stuck on the couch, unable to make a daily impact.”