“Welcome to Mid-South Transplant Foundation”
Are you an organ donor?
by Erinn Figg CT Feb. 1, 2017
“Would you like to be an organ and tissue donor?”
Almost all of us hear some variation of this question when we’re getting or renewing our driver’s licenses. However, more than 60 percent of Tennessee drivers are shrugging it off – even though a recent Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) study found that 96 percent of the national respondents supported donating a deceased loved one’s organs and tissues if that person had expressed that wish before dying.
To increase awareness of the life-saving consequences of answering “yes” to that question, each year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources designates Feb. 14 as National Donor Day. After all, what better date to remind people of their power to give the gift of life than on a day when most of us are celebrating love?
“When you say, ‘Yes, I want to be a donor,’ there is no greater love than to share a part of yourself with somebody and pass life on,” said Kim Van Frank, executive director of the Mid-South Transplant Foundation. “So the heart and Valentine’s Day has such a connection to what we do.”
Registered donors in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi have a small heart printed on their driver’s licenses to indicate their registered donor status. And on Feb. 14, many Department of Safety officials and county clerks will be wearing T-shirts that say, “Show Me Your Heart” and handing out heart-shaped candies that encourage recipients to “Say Yes.”
Currently, about 38 percent of Tennessee drivers have registered to be a donor.
“We would really like to see that number at 50 percent and we’re making baby steps towards that goal. There are some states around the country that are at 65, 70 and 75 percent,” Van Frank said.
So what’s holding back many Tennesseans from registering? Van Frank says many families simply aren’t having that important conversation.
“To talk about donation means we have to talk about our own deaths, and families just don’t like to do that,” she said. “National Donor Day gives us an opportunity to say, ‘It’s OK to talk about this.’ It’s such an important topic, and we know from research that the majority of individuals support donation, but we do need to have a conversation, and more importantly, we need to make that decision for ourselves.”
People who missed their chance to register at the Department of Motor Vehicles, can still register online at donatelifetn.org.
A donor’s story
Angela Gordon of Memphis is living proof of the miracles that can occur when someone registers to be an organ donor.
Angela Gordon, shown here with her husband Sherman, of Memphis is now living a healthy, energetic and happy life thanks to one organ donor’s gift of a kidney through the Mid-South Transplant Foundation. “It changed my life. Now I’m able to do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do: I finally learned how to swim this year,” she said. (Photo: Courtesy of Angela Gordon)
At 19, Gordon learned she had severe kidney damage as a result of high blood pressure. (High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure in the United States after diabetes.) She needed a new kidney. At 29, she started dialysis that lasted four years until she finally received one — from a 17-year-old East High School student who died in a car accident and whose family honored her wishes to be an organ donor.
Unfortunately after about two years, Gordon’s body rejected that kidney, putting her back on dialysis — and a kidney waiting list — for another eight years until last April, when she received another kidney. This one is working just fine.
“Organ donation saves lives. Not only is it a blessing that you can give someone else a second chance and the gift of life, but your legacy will live on,” Gordon said. “Not only your family and friends will remember you, but you will also bless up to eight other lives with your organs and those families will also remember you. Your loved ones will have an extended family, knowing that your organs are still here living in someone else, that your heart is still beating in someone else’s chest.”
The Mid-South Transplant Foundation facilitates communication between a recipient and a donor’s family after one year has passed. Gordon still keeps in touch with the mother of the young woman who donated her first kidney. She already has a letter of gratitude ready for the Foundation to pass along to the family of the second donor.
“I’m a living witness that organ donation saves lives. I’m here because someone said yes,” Gordon said.
For more information:
Mid-South Transplant Foundation: 901-328-4438
Tennessee Donor Services: 888-234-4440, tds.dcids.org
Donate Life Tennessee Organ and Tissue Donor Registry: donatelifetn.org
Quick Facts about Organ Donation
• One organ donor can save up to eight lives.
• One tissue donor can enhance the lives of up to 50 people.
• All major religions in the United States support organ donation and view it as a final act of generosity.
• 120,000 people across the country are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.
• Every 10 minutes, another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
• An average of 22 people die each day because an organ was not available to them.
• There is no cost to the donors or their families for an organ and tissue donation.
Heart transplant recipient lives new life with new heart
by Kym Clark
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) – Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women and it’s one of the most preventable causes of death.
The American Heart Association dedicated the month of February as Heart Health Month in an effort to raise awareness and strategies for preventing heart disease. For those like Vera Milam-Johnson, heart disease is personal. She’s the picture of health today, but that wasn’t always the case.
In 2006, Johnson started feeling weak and out of breath from the slightest exertion. “I was having problems going up and down the stairs to go to bed and said ‘you better go to the doctor,’ because I was having to hold onto the furniture and everything just to get in the bed and I was continually out of breath,” Johnson said.
She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. “I was not even aware of what was congestive heart failure was,” she said. But, she learned fast and gave up a lifelong habit in the process. One of the doctors gave her advice that helped her life immensely. “He said, ‘if you plan on living, you better stop smoking.’ From that day to this one, I have not smoked,” she said.
But, it wasn’t enough. Johnson’s health deteriorated largely due to rheumatoid arthritis. “It was more the arthritis eating at the muscles, the inflammation eating at the muscles of my heart,” she said.
By June 2011, she went on the transplant list. Then, in an almost unheard of amount of time, she received a miracle. On September 7, 2011, she received a new heart. “That is a journey and a lot of things happen while you’re on that journey,” Johnson said. “But, you just have to relax and obey the doctors and go from here.”
Copyright 2017 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.
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