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Transplant Remembrance Ceremony

Robert and Patsy Stull’s son Adam in 2003.

You may not know that April is “National Donate Life Month.”  In fact you may not know that the person next to you in the store is an organ recipient.  You may not know that the family sitting next to you in church donated their loved one’s organs and tissue to save lives in the midst of their grief.  You may not know that this writer is a living organ donor who shared her life with her granddaughter.  Now imagine being in one room surrounded by people who fall into one of the above categories.

Each year LifeNet Health, a Virginia-based organ and tissue procurement organization, which has a local office in Roanoke, holds a remembrance and celebration ceremony in April.  On Sunday April 19th the ceremony was held at Virginia Western Community College.  The names of every deceased organ donor in the state of Virginia were read.  Those people from the region who had given in their time of grief were honored.  Organ and tissue recipients also participated in the ceremony.  It was a powerful time in which love and gratitude were on open display.

In April 2003, Robert and Patsy Stull were faced with a terrible event—a car accident that took the life of their beloved son Adam.  In that peculiar way that life sometimes has of throwing curves, Adam died on the day their first grandson was born.  So, in the midst of new life, the Stulls made the decision to let Adam give the gift of life.

His pancreas and left kidney saved the life of a 39-year-old woman.  A 54-year-old man received his right kidney and a 50-year-old woman received his liver. Patsy was the guest speaker at the ceremony, representing all the donor families.  Some of them displayed their continuing grief in abundance as she shared her story.  Thirty nine year old David Edmondson, a heart recipient, was the speaker representing those who have received the gift of life.  He was thrilled to be able to say that he has been helping his family physically build a house.  Not bad for a guy who couldn’t walk fifteen feet before his surgery.

In the state of Virginia, the best way to sign up as an organ donor is to go to save7lives.org and register there.  People can still register at any Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles; that information is transferred to save7lives.org.  For those who have registered at a DMV in the past, that information is currently held at save7lives.org.   More than 2500 people in Virginia await organ transplantation, and approximately 700 transplants a year are done in Virginia. Previous medical history does not necessarily preclude a potential donor from being included on the list.

Tissue donation can enhance more than 50 lives. Veins, bone, skin and heart valves can make a tremendous difference in quality of life.  For those who are struggling with grief after the death of a loved one and the subsequent donation, LifeNet Health offers the website healingthespirit.org.  In addition, donor family advocate Tina Pierce can be reached at 800-847-7831. To learn more, call Pierce or visit lifenethealth.org.

By Christine Slade
[email protected]

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Ms. Slade did a beautiful job on this article! Thank you for publishing these positive words in an effort to educate the public and increase awareness of the desperate need for organ and tissue donation. Many people die everyday because enough organs are not available.

  2. Since my kidney transplant in March of last year I’ve been able to do some volunteering and getting the word out about the importance of being an organ donor. Travel is alot easier now since being off dialysis and that has led me to pursue some of my hobbies like fishing and outdoor photography. Volunteering has ben a wonderful experience and I have dozens of new friends throughout Virginia..Volunteer and you’ll hear amazing stories of people who have been organ donors and recipients. People you met on the street every day. Just stop and listen to their stories. You”ll be amazed.

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