Published in Starkville Daily News April 2, 2014
OCH and Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency hosted a balloon launch and ceremony Tuesday in honor of organ and tissue donors and transplant recipients.
The event was held in order to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation and to encourage people to register as donors. Members of the OCH staff, and Starkville residents affected by organ and tissue donation, gathered at the flagpole in front of the ambulance bay for the ceremony at noon. Attendees heard from both a transplant recipient and the family of a tissue donor.
The group then released balloons different-colored balloons representing donors and recipients.
Beverly Hammett had a kidney transplant three years ago after going into renal failure. She said receiving the transplant gave her a second chance at life.
“It was a very positive experience and a very humbling experience,” Hammett said. “Because when you’re told that you are in renal failure, you panic. You don’t know what to do. When they called me, I wasn’t expecting it. It will be three years this month that they called me and told me they had a kidney for me.”
Hammett said registering as an organ and tissue donor is important and can save lives.
“Donate life, because life is the most precious thing we have,” Hammett said. “Without life, we cannot fulfill our purpose. Each one of us has a designated mission, but it is up to God to oversee what that mission is.”
Steve and Laura Gaskin said they make an effort to speak at every event they can to encourage people to become organ and tissue donors. Their son, Matthew, was only 23 years old when he passed away in a car accident in January 2008. According to his mother, he told his parents after church one day that he was interested in becoming an organ and tissue donor after a fellow church member received a liver transplant.
“(Matthew) said ‘I want to give everything I have,’” Laura said. “’Because if anything ever happens, I won’t need these (organs) when I get to heaven.’”
Steve said that his son’s organs could not be donated, but his tissue was suitable to donate.
“After the wreck, he was carried straight to the funeral home,” Steve Gaskin said. “When we got here, after the initial shock, we asked if he could be an organ donor and we didn’t realize that he couldn’t be a donor as far as organs, because he had already passed away at the scene of the wreck. He became a tissue donor.”
Laura said her son’s tissue has helped many people.
“Thirty-two people have had their lives saved or enhanced through Matthew’s donation,” Laura Gaskin said. “We’ve talked to (an elderly woman), who at the time was 72, and she received some bone tissue of Matthew’s to repair her spine when she couldn’t do hardly anything because of the pain. Once she received the donation, she was back to a normal life. Matthew also gave corneas, so two women have sight because of Matthew.”
Steve said he didn’t realize how great the need for donors was until after his son’s accident.
“There are so many people that are on dialysis, it’s just amazing,” Steve said. “I didn’t realize how many people were waiting (for a transplant). There are so many people that don’t know about organ and tissue donation that would do it.”
MORA’s Director of Community Outreach, Charlotte Mullinix, explained what National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Month is and why it is important.
“April is National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Month,” Mullinix said. “It’s just a time where organizations like ours — we’re an organ procurement agency — there are many in the country, around 50 organizations, that work with hospitals and it’s just a time that nationally we do partnerships with hospitals and hold events. Bottom line: it’s just to make people aware of organ and tissue donation.”
Mullinix said a registered donor has the potential to help the lives of many people.
“One organ and tissue donor can help save the lives of eight people through organs — the heart, liver, lungs and pancreas — but 100 people can be helped through tissue donations,” Mullinix said.
OCH Public Relations Coordinator Mary Kathryn Kight said the hospital wanted to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation in hopes that more people will choose to register.
“As the local hospital, we at OCH wanted to help raise awareness, especially during National Donate Life Month, to show the importance of donating life,” Kight said. “And the Gaskin family is a perfect example of how so many lives can be saved and impacted through donations.
“It saves lives, which impacts everybody that is touched by those donations,” Kight added. “Like Beverly Hammett said, she wouldn’t be here today without her kidney donation and she’s doing great now. Personally, I’m an organ donor. It’s on my card and I chose to do that when I got my license, but also, recently my dad has been put on the donor recipient list. You never know when it’s going to affect you, and a lot of people just don’t know about organ donation. I think if they were just informed, they would make a better decision about it.”
To register as an organ donor, visit donatelifems.org. You can find more information about organ and tissue donation by going to msora.org.
By ARIEL KING