Mother honored for her sons’ donation

Valerie Fourtunia

A mother from Beaumont was honored for her sons’ tissue donations in the Christus Hospital – St. Elizabeth lobby Friday, Dec. 14, in Beaumont.

Valerie Fourtunia, mother of tissue donors Mike Dunnam and Jeremy Fontenot, was presented with a floragraph, a framed floral memorial portrait of her son Dunnam. The floragraph was made using grains, flowers, seeds, spices, and other organic materials.

“I keep this room in my house where I have Jeremy’s basketball jersey, Mike’s diving gear and all their things, and I’m sure that’s where this will go,” Valerie said. “This is going to be a very special place in my house where I just go in and feel them surrounding me.”

Dunnam was 22 years old when he was involved in a fatal car accident. His tissue was donated, benefiting 73 recipients, Fourtunia said.

Dunnam’s older brother Fontenot, whom Fourtunia said Dunnam idolized, also passed away in a fatal car accident at the age of 16. Dunnam was 10 years old at the time.

“My two boys, the bright lights of my life, are the only children I was blessed with,” Fourtunia said. “I feel as if they are together again, but still always with me.”

Fourtunia said that being a donor was something that she and Dunnam had talked about after his brother’s passing, and they both knew it was something they wanted to do.

“Mike and I talked about (tissue donation) when he was 10, and he said, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to do that?’” she said. “He wanted to be a donor.”

Fourtunia received two letters from recipients of Dunnam’s donation. One recipient had an ACL reconstruction, just as Dunnam did when he was 15.

He wrote in his letter to Fourtunia, “Since the tissue transplant, I have been able to go back to many normal activities and am looking forward to a pain-free future. For this I am very grateful to you and your loved one. My family and I will always remember your act of kindness and generosity.”

Another recipient, who needed to have a portion of her spine rebuilt after many years of pain, wrote to Fourtunia saying, “Without your son’s gift, I would have eventually been paralyzed.”

Fourtunia was one of 27 riders on the 2012 Donate Life float, which recognized thousands of individuals who donate tissue each year. The float was part of the 123rd Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. RTI Donor Services sponsored her trip to Pasadena.

RTI’s support of the 2013 float will mark its 10th consecutive year supporting the program. The Donate Life float, “Journeys of the Heart,” will be a part of the 124th Rose Parade, which takes place on Jan. 1, 2013. The float’s 200-foot-long heart-shaped pathway is lined with 72 memorial floragraph portraits of deceased donors that will be visible along the five-mile parade route. More information is available on the float’s website at

According to RTI, more than 112,000 children and adults await life-saving organ transplants in the United States and hundreds of thousands more are in need of a tissue transplant to save or greatly enhance the quality of their lives. For more information on how to donate, visit