A.T. Still University and Northeast Regional Medical Center partnered in celebration of National Donate Life Month on April 29. With an afternoon of moving, real-life stories from organ donors, recipients, and prospective recipients, the message was clear: become an organ donor and inform your family and all those around you of your decision.
Midwest Transplant Network Specialist Cheryl Tuggle shared information on past and current donor laws, explaining that the past law was merely an intent registry, which means when someone registers as a donor, the donor’s family can disregard their intent. Current law is a first-person consent registration; the donor’s consent is always respected. Tuggle noted that the switch in laws, which occurred last year, did not automatically move current donors from the intent registry to the consent registry. To make the shift in registries, donors must do so when renewing their driver’s license or by visiting www.missouriorgandonor.com. Missouri driver’s licenses now include a donor symbol in the bottom, left-hand corner, signifying consent registration.
Several recipient families shared their testimonies of their gifts of life. Jenna Mihalevich, a 16-year-old organ recipient, told of her transplant journey and recently celebrated her nine-year transplant anniversary. The Loyal Anderson family has been waiting for a kidney for one year, struggling with the pains of dialysis, and finally received news two days ago that they’ve found a possible donor match with Loyal’s cousin. Sixty-three-year-old Junior Stiles suffered from diabetes and kidney failure when his name was put on the list to receive a kidney and a pancreas transplant with 30,000 other recipient hopefuls. Stiles felt his chances were slim…He just recently celebrated his 18-year transplant anniversary.
Each recipient and their families expressed their unending gratitude to their donors. It was clear that they had received the gift of life. A local donor, the Stefani Lorton family, shared their story of loss and hope. “Our tragedy was someone else’s miracle,” they said. “It didn’t make it easy, but it made it easier.”
The event concluded with a symbolic celebration of life balloon release. The audience simultaneously released dozens of balloons that carried with them seeds, with the intent that the balloons would fall, the seeds would settle, and new life might grow.