The power to donate life
by Tom Doty
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second and final article in a series.)
JUSTICE - “You have the power to change someone’s world by being an organ, eye and tissue donor. It’s about living, it’s about life.”
This is the motto and introduction on the pamphlets promoting the importance of being a donor that are provided to the public by the Donate Life of WV Foundation. For one local family, the recent death of a loved one brought this topic to life more than ever before and, according to them, opened their eyes to the number of individuals who are on various transplant lists.
The Toler family, who lost their brother Ben in July after he suffered a heart attack, has become supporters and crusaders for the cause of organ and tissue donation, after seeing what an impact their brother’s generous gift meant to those who benefited. A 28 year-old male gazed upon his young daughters face for the first time after receiving cornea transplant surgery following Ben’s death, and now see the world through the donated eyes.
“Knowing this has meant the world to us,” stated April Toler Mullins, a sibling of the deceased. “Ben will never truly be gone as long as there are people living that benefited from tissue, bone or skin that were donated after his death.”
Organ, eye and tissue transplants offer patients a new chance at healthy, productive lives and returns them to their families, friends and communities. Transplantation is one of the most remarkable success stories in the history of medicine. It provides hope to thousands of people with organ failure. In addition, transplanted tissue offers hundreds of thousands of individuals’ active and renewed lives.
But – transplantation requires the commitment of donors. Unfortunately, the need is much greater than the number of people who actually donate. Last year within the State of WV, approximately 8,000 deceased donors made possible more than 22,000 organ transplants. In addition, there were more than 6,500 transplants from living donors. Over 42,000 sight-restoring corneal transplants were performed in the U.S. last year. Each year, lifesaving and life-enhancing tissue is provided by approximately 30,000 tissue donors.
The need for donated organs, corneas and tissue continues to grow. More than 110,000 men, women and children currently await lifesaving organ transplants, including many who live in WV.
Sadly, an average of 18 people dies each day due to a lack of available organs.
“You never know when it’s going to be your family who is in need,” remarked Mingo County Chief Magistrate Dallas Toler, also a sibling to Ben. “It makes absolutely no sense to not be an organ and tissue donor. You could drastically change someone’s future and give them the opportunity to live a productive and full life.”
“ I know it’s a hard decision to make, but once your family member is gone, you can’t bring them back…there’s no rewind button. But you can help someone else and in the process, you know that part of your loved one still remains, they still live on.”
A copy of a poem entitled “To Remember Me,” penned by Robert N. Test, was mailed to the Toler family by the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE), and provided comfort and peace for them. It reads as follows:
“The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital busily occupied with the living and the dying. At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped./ When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. Don’t call this my death bed, let it be called the bed of life and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives./ Give my sight to a man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face or love in the eyes of a woman. Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain./ Give my blood to the teenager pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he may live to see his grandchildren play. Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week. Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk./ Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary, and grow them that someday, a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window./ Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow. If you must bury something, let it by my faults, my weaknesses and all prejudice against my fellow man. Give my sins to the devil and give my soul to God./ If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.”
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