Monday, July 20, 2009

Transplant Heroes - Part 1

Today we'll start this week's series - "Transplant Heroes and Zeros." We'll start with the heroes by telling Kent's story.

I first learned about Kent (pictured) back in April of 2007. One evening, I was blessed with the privilege of speaking to his mother, Ruth, on the phone. It became quickly apparent that she, as most mothers do, loved to talk about her kids. Ruth told of how she and her family had just recently lost Kent at the young age of 46. He had passed away after waiting four years on a liver transplant. She told about how he had fought and fought and then ran out of time. However, from Kent's death came forth blessings for several in need. Due to his own liver disease and time on the waiting list, he understood the importance of each of us being organ and tissue donors. So. he chose to be one even if the liver he so desperately needed did not come in time. In his own death, Kent saved several lives by donating his organs and improved several others by donating his tissues. Ruth told me of two elderly people who now see because they each received one of his corneas. Two people received one of his kidneys. One of them, a minister, was able to return to the ministry. Another received his pancreas. Another man, who was 37 years old at the time, was the fourth life that Kent saved. He was so sick he could not walk from one end of his house to the other without being exhausted and short of breath. His hands and feet were cold and blue from lack of circulation and oxygen. He had been forced to quit work, give up his hobbies, and become a hermit because he was slowly dying a miserable death from congestive heart failure caused by emery-dreifuss muscular dystrophy. On February 21, 2007, this man received Kent's strong, healthy heart and can now breathe normally and his hands and feet have returned to their natural color and are nice and warm. He has now returned to work part time, resumed his hobbies of hunting, fishing, and going to ballgames and NASCAR races. In case you have not figured it out by now, that man is .......... ME !! Yes, me. I'm alive because a man I had never met cared enough to give the gift of life. What a great legacy to leave.

I learned that Kent and I had grown up only a few miles apart, had attended the same high school, and had graduated from the University of Tennessee with the same degree. In fact, in high school, I played in marching bad with his younger brother. Some would say it's all a big coincidence. However, I do not believe in coincidences. I believe that God had a hand in putting all these "pieces" together - period. It's the only way the course of events make any sense.

Nowadays, we hear the term "hero" thrown around frequently. Usually, it is synonymous with police officers, fire fighters, soldiers, or others who risk their lives for the good of others. Often, it's for people they do not know. In my opinion, organ and tissue donors and their families should be added to this list. They save countless lives every year by caring about others in need even in the midst of their own tragedy. In Tennessee, we refer to them as "The Ultimate Volunteers." You can be another Kent - a hero. Just visit the Donate Life America website by clicking here.

To Kent and his family and all the other organ donors and their families ........ THANK YOU.
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