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Taylor Winkel, Tissue Recipient and LifeSource First Responder

In 2008, Taylor Winkel tore her ACL while playing basketball – a devastating injury that impacted her ability to play her favorite sport. During her consults with various surgeons, she was given three different surgical options. This was the first time she was really introduced to tissue donation.

As only a sophomore in high school, Taylor was excited to secure a spot on her school’s varsity basketball team – which she described as “a pretty amazing feeling.” Taylor remembers playing an intense game against Park High School when unexpectedly she dropped down on the court and tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee.

Shortly after the game, Taylor met with many doctors and surgeons for any chance of healing. In the meantime, she was walking in crutches and kept her knee on ice. One of the hardest parts for Taylor was watching her team from the sidelines. At the time, basketball was her life.  

Taylor also had a monumental task coming up in just two weeks: her driver’s license test. After consulting with her surgeons, doctors and the licensing center; she was directed to reschedule her test for post-recovery – about four months later.

Receiving Donor Tissue

Out of the three healing options her Twin Cities Orthopedics surgeon explained, Taylor chose to receive donor tissue to replace her torn ACL. Her surgeon explained how donor tissue could allow her to heal faster than the other options and potentially for her to play again at full-strength.

Three weeks following her injury, Taylor had surgery to receive her precious gift: a deceased donor’s tissue. After a few months of recovery, Taylor gained her full range of motion a lot sooner than many expected. Her surgeons credited it to the deceased donor tissue donation, which often heals much stronger with minimal scarring. In fact, Taylor’s sister experienced an identical injury, decided to go a different route in her healing and continues to have a large visible scar around her knee.

After recovering from her surgery, Taylor made it back on the basketball court – and in record time – by the end of the season. One of the most memorable moments for Taylor was that she continued playing for two more years and earned her spot as team captain for her senior year. Most people are not able to fully recover or compete at the same level – competition or fitness-wise – as they had before.  

“When I got my driver’s license, just three months after my surgery, I checked the box to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor. I thought about my tissue donor, but really did not understand donation. I joked with friends and teammates that I received donor tissue from a basketball star. I understand now that my donor was not likely a basketball star. They were your average everyday hero, and they live on through me and others!” – Taylor Winkel, tissue recipient 

Taylor and team on basketball court
Taylor (#5) joins her team on the court before a game

Paying It Forward

After high school, Taylor received her undergraduate degree in Genetics, and two master’s degrees in Public Administration and Emergency Management, and Macro-Level Social Work. This vast knowledge could have lead her down many paths but in early 2019 she accepted a position with LifeSource as a Family Support Coordinator. This role gives Taylor an opportunity to tap into her educational experience, share her story, and help families during an overwhelming and traumatic time.