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A Hero With Wings

As we celebrate Donate Life Month, we shine a light on Jessica Turnbough, who was inspired by an organ donation that saved her childhood friend’s life.

Jessica Turnbough

Jessica Turnbough was sassy, spunky and quite a handful growing up, and she stayed that way into her adult life. Her mother, Casey, said that to call Jessica energetic would be an understatement.

Jessica became a preschool teacher and loved being with children and helping young people thrive and learn in fun ways. She was always so proud of them when her lessons would finally make sense and would talk about how full it made her feel when these students “got it.” Her students enjoyed learning because she always made it fun.

“She had a magnetic personality,” Casey said. “People were just drawn to her. She never met a stranger and would talk to anyone about anything. She was very empathetic and always just knew when something was going on with those she was around.”

Saving a life

Jessica was only 25 when a terrible sinus infection turned into bacterial meningitis, a condition from which she could not recover. She had said many times during her life that if anything ever happened to her, she wanted to be an organ donor. She had a childhood friend who had received a lifesaving organ transplant, and that made an indelible impression on her.

Her decision to give the Gift of Life did just that. Jessica donated her heart, liver and kidneys, saving the lives of three individuals on the organ transplant waiting list.

“Jessica found peace and solace anytime she could be at the beach, just listening to the crashing of the ocean waves,” Casey said. “When she just needed alone time, she would get in her little convertible and just go drive and listen to music. She loved all genres of music.”

Jessica loved dogs and cried at any movie involving them. She was an avid reader of mystery, romance and suspense novels, and could draw beautifully. She embraced her Cajun heritage, loved visiting New Orleans and favored Cajun foods, with red beans and rice being at the top of the list.

“Jessica was a loving, beautiful soul that to me will always be a hero that just doesn’t wear a cape,” Casey said. “She wears wings.”

Becoming an organ donor

Becoming an organ donor only takes a few minutes when you sign up online at and one organ donor can provide organs for up to eight people.

According to LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services, 242 donors provided 566 people with the gift of life last year through UF Health Jacksonville, UF Health Shands Hospital and other hospitals across northern Florida. In 2023, LifeQuest provided organs to 80 transplant centers.

Donate Life America notes that every nine minutes, someone is added to the national transplant waiting list, which already includes more than 100,000 people waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. The demand for organ, eye and tissue donations continues to exceed the number of donors.

Please visit for more information on registering to become an organ donor in Florida.

About the author

Hope Barrist
Strategic Communications Intern

For the media

Media contact

Peyton Wesner
Communications Manager for UF Health External Communications (352) 273-9620