Visit our news articles and videos often that depict stories of donation in our Mid-South area.

March 14, 2018

‘They live on’: Mother of 10-year-old fire victim reflects on his gift of life

by Nicole Harris, The Commercial Appeal

Ten-year-old Cameron Hollingsworth was a prankster. One person he could always count on fooling was his mother, Zakiya Hollingsworth.
“Me being his mom, he would always get me. He would say, ‘No mama, I’m just playing.’ I just loved the sense of humor about him,” said Zakiya.
Small in size, but big at heart, Cameron dominated opposing teams on the football field. Off the field he enjoyed science and chess.
“He was an amazing child. He was very outgoing, very outspoken. He had a dominant personality, even though he was very small,” said Zakiya. “He was protective of his family, you know. He just wanted to see everyone happy all the time.”
However, the life of the aspiring professional football player was cut short in the deadliest fire to light the sky of Memphis in centuries. Cameron — along with six of his siblings, his grandmother, and two other adults —succumbed to injuries from the September 12, 2016 blaze.
Although the sole survivor of the fire put up a good fight, his little body did not recover. Zakiya made the decision to allow Cameron to live on through others.
Two days following the fire, doctors harvested his organs. He donated kidneys and a liver.
“It was hard, but I feel like it was something he would’ve loved for his mom to do for him. So that’s something I took into consideration; how he would’ve felt helping someone else,” Zakiya said.
Like many others before her, the mother of 11 was faced with a tough decision. But, she didn’t face it alone. The Mid-South Transplant Foundation, Inc. helped her throughout the process.
Founded in 1976, six years after the first kidney donation was performed in Memphis, the organization continues its mission to raise awareness about the gift of life; particularly among minorities.
“Ms. Zola Burgess, she has been very instrumental. I had a celebration of life for my children after my son passed. We had a celebration of life for them and she was there and she was supportive. She spoke to my family and let them know the importance of organ donation and how it helps and supports the community,” she said.
Representing an area with a 52 percent African-American population — western Tennessee, eastern Arkansas and Northern Mississippi — the organization’s focus on that demographic has resulted in increased African-American consent rates from 27 percent in 2007 to 55 percent in 2012.
“The stigma of it being ‘We want to leave the way we came,’ we no longer can do anything with any parts that are left of us once we perish,” Zakiya said through tears. “I think people should learn more about it before they make the decision to say no.”
According to the American Transplant Foundation, roughly 114,915 people are on the national waiting list and an average of 20 people die each day waiting for an available organ.
Nearly two years after saying ‘Yes’ to those in need, Zakiya is encouraging others to do the same.
“To give life is always a good thing … Going through situations makes you more sensitive to other people’s situations. It allows you to feel how they would feel, and be able to console them. I would like to continue to do that in the community, and in my home, and everywhere I go,” she said.
Though death brings pain, the selfless act of donors and their loved ones allows MSTF to support and encourage people like Zakiya.
“It’s a tragedy anytime a loved one is lost — it’s never going to be easy for anyone — but to help someone can sometimes soothe their pain a little bit to look at someone and say, ‘My son, my daughter, my aunt is a part of that person’s life and they saved them.’ They’re not gone, they live on.”
For more information about the Mid-South Transplant Foundation and how to sign up to be an organ donor, visit
Reach Nicole Harris at or on Twitter at NicTheEditor.

Posted Nov. 2017

WREG/Mother hears son’s heartbeat for the first time since his death

Local transplant recipient meets family of donor/FOX13

Forever Grateful:Organ donor’s family finally meets recipient/WMC

Posted Oct. 2017

If anyone believes in miracles, it’s Pat Hardison, the Senatobia volunteer fireman who received the world’s most extensive face transplant two years ago.
He trusted in God and his doctors that he would be the first to successfully receive a full facial transplant, and he was rewarded with a new lease on life.
Hardison’s face was burned beyond recognition while he was battling a house fire on Sept. 5, 2001.
In August 2015, he received a face transplant covering his skull and most of his neck.

Senatobia volunteer firefighter Pat Hardison, the world’s most extensive face transplant recipient, spoke to the Mid-South Transplant Association and Mid-South Eyebank annual celebration of life Sunday at Memphis Botanic Gardens. Wochit
The surgery took 26 hours and a team of more than 100 medical professionals led by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who specializes in reconstructive surgery at New York University Langone Medical Center.
Hardison received the face of a Brooklyn bike mechanic and courier named David Rodebaugh, who had been declared brain dead after a cycling accident.
Sunday afternoon, Hardison stood before family members of Mid-South organ donors and thanked them for their loved ones’ role in making miracles happen for people like him.
“The donors and the families, you can’t imagine the thank you’s and gratitude that people like me owe you all for that gift. All I can say is, thank you,” Hardison said.
He was a guest speaker at the Mid-South Transplant Foundation and Mid-South Eyebank’s Celebration of Life. The foundation is the federally designated organ transplant coordinator in the region and holds the annual event to honor donor families.
Hardison, 43, was a Senatobia tire shop owner and volunteer fireman when he was injured. A breathing apparatus helmet and mask melted on his head after a burning ceiling collapsed. His eyelids and ears were gone.

October 22, 2017 – Face transplant recipient Pat Hardison, 43, poses for a portrait prior to speaking at the Mid-South Transplant Foundation’s annual “Celebration of Life” event at the Memphis Botanic Garden on Sunday. The Senatobia volunteer fireman was burned beyond recognition while fighting a house fire on Sept. 5, 2001. A breathing apparatus headgear melted on his face, burning off his eyelids and ears. After years of living with the disfiguring injuries and more than 70 corrective surgeries, he decided in 2012 to pursue a face transplant. In August 2015, Hardison received a face transplant covering his skull and most of his neck at the New York University Langone Medical Center. The surgery took 26 hours and a team of more than 100 medical professionals led by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez, who specializes in reconstructive surgery. (Photo: Yalonda M. James/The Commercial Appeal)

He was airlifted to the burn unit at the Regional Medical Center and stayed there for 63 days before doctors sent him home. In the ensuing decade, he had more than 70 burn-related surgeries.
He became interested in a face transplant in 2011, when his eye doctor warned him he was losing his vision because of the missing eyelids.
Hardison said he knew the surgery could kill him, but he never considered backing down.

“The only surgery close to mine was attempted in France and the patient died. I knew all that before I went in, but I was willing. All or nothing, that’s what I wanted to do. I bet it all,” he said.
“I never wanted to back out. I had been miserable for 14 years by this time. Death is not the worst thing that can happen.  I told the doctor that, I’d rather be dead than live like I was,” Hardison said.
In his speech, he didn’t dwell on painful memories of living with a horrible disfigurement; the stares and cruel things people said when he went out in public; of having two young sons who had never seen their father’s face.

Instead he focused on gratitude.
 “Transplant, it’s great, and it gave me life,” Hardison said.
“I can go places with my kids now. I went to Disney World last year and it’s the first time my two little boys had been anywhere where people didn’t say, ‘What happened?’ and all that stuff. They could tell something had happened, but nobody ever looked at me and said, ‘He got a face transplant.’ They just couldn’t tell it. “

Click image to view video on FOX13 NEWS

Posted June, 2016

2016 Donate Life Transplant Games of America Flag Signing

The Donate Life Transplant Games of America is a biennial event held in the United States to recognize the tremendous accomplishments of individuals whose lives have been affected by eye, organ, and tissue donation.
   Bryan Lawton is a returning member of Team Mid-South and a transplant recipient. “I had a double lung transplant in 1997. This is my second transplant games. Last year I played basketball, golf and racquetball and I hope to compete again this year.”
   Erskine Gillespie says, “It’s about highlighting the fact that transplantation works. It takes people who were once so sick that they were told they were going to die and now they’ve been restored to life where they can go out and compete in an athletic activity.”
   There are currently more than 123,000 individuals on the national waiting list for an organ transplant. More than 28,000 lives are saved each year in the U.S. through organ donation. A new person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes.

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
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,
Donate Life Tennessee Organ and Tissue Donor Registry:
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.



Posted July 1, 2016
CA-Medtronic workers

Posted July 1, 2016

Posted July 1, 2016

Posted July 1, 2016
WMC5-transplant games

Posted March 28, 2016

Baptist Desoto Honored

Baptist-Desoto_tops-organsClick on photo to go to the story.

Posted March 7, 2016

Posted October 19, 2015

Mom meets recipient of son’s heart

heart_recipient1Photo by Mark Weber
a.spencer_jrBy: Tom Charlier (Commercial Appeal)
April 25, 2015 — Viola Turner (right) holds the chest of her son’s heart donation recipient, James Wibbenmeyer, 66, (left) as she feels and listens for a heartbeat as the pair meet for the first time Friday. “I want to hear Albert’s heartbeat, put my ear to his chest and hear a heartbeat,” said Turner. Albert Spencer Jr., 20 years-old, was murdered in a drive-by shooting in January 2013 at the Bella Vista Apartments in Hickory Hill. Spencer, an innocent bystander visiting friends in the complex, was an organ donor whose heart, liver and both kidneys were donated after his death.

Posted December 16, 2014

Posted August 1, 2014

Mrs. Mississippi sings Corinth’s praises

Reported by: Susan Parker
CORINTH, Miss. (WTVA) — Mrs. Mississippi Dawn Gaines has a song to sing and a very personal story to tell about heroes. That’s how she feels about organ donors including the one who donated a heart to her father-in-law.

“Still living life to the fullest, so it just goes to show one person signed up (who) was willing to donate their organ and he has life left to live,” said Dawn Gaines.

John Gaines is among those we find at this Mississippi Driver’s License District Office in Corinth.

It’s a celebration for a job well done and a tribute to their being among the top three cities in the state for organ donors.

“You see so many miracles in such a small place. Excuse me for getting emotional, but it’s an emotional thing for me,” said Gaines.

“That’s our cause is to inform people because like we say, it does save lives,” said Mississippi Highway Patrol Master Sgt. Tammy Hall.

“They really make it happen for so many families,” said Midsouth Organ Transplant Foundation Community Outreach Coordinator Zola Burgess.

Phyllis Williams’ son is here to get his first driver’s license. This event reminds Williams of her father who was a donor.

“I myself have not right now, but it is something I have thought about and I think it is wonderful,” said Williams.

“Just one person that puts that little heart on their license can save many, many lives,” said Mississippi Drivers License

Posted December 26, 2013

Posted December 18, 2013

Posted April 26, 2013

Posted April 22, 2013

Posted April 22, 2013

Posted April 15, 2013DailyNews_story

Posted April 12, 2013Grandmother_abc24

Posted September 9, 2012


Floragraph for 2015 Returned

Zola Burgess and Randa Lipman of Mid-South Transplant Foundation surprised Andy Burress (left) and Chapman Burress (right) by returning Andrew Loyd’s framed floragraph to the family. Andrew was honored on the Donate Life float in this year’s Rose Parade for saving lives as an organ donor. The presentation took place during services at Church of the Crossroads in Corinth, MS . Looking on is Pastor Nelson Hight.

Transplant Games

transplantgames-reportClick on photo to go to the story.

Plaque Honoring Blythe Family

Blythe_plaqueSOFTBALL TEAM OF 11-YEAR-OLDS MOVED BY PLAQUE HONORING ASHLEY BLYTHE AS ORGAN DONOR TO RAISE MONEY DURING NATIONAL DONATE LIFE MONTH. The team saw Ashley’s name on a plaque honoring her at the field and wanted to know more about her and organ and tissue donation. The baseball field at Crossroads United Methodist Church was built by the family in Ashley’s honor. CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO GO TO THE STORY.

Posted April 27, 2015-WREG 3 News

Posted September 2, 2014–WMCTV 5 News
To read the full story and watch the video: Click Here.

Local 24 News – Memphis, TN Nov. 20, 2013. Story of Cory Horton.Local24-story

Published Dec. 5, 2013topworkplaces

Mid-South Transplant Foundation is one of The Commercial Appeal’s 2013 Top Workplaces.

Action News 5 – Memphis, TN. Nov. 22, 20121yr-old