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A Perspective on Organ Donation

‘Would you like to be an organ donor?’ I ask that question so many times throughout the day, but too few people think about what it really means.

My sisters, Reba and Kathy, have had kidney failure. Mother did, too. Why they got this horrible disease, nobody knows. Today, both Reba and Kathy thrive. Reba loves to work in her garden. Kathy enjoys camping and visiting with friends. Ordinary lives, that neither of them would have had it not been for two extraordinary women who wanted to donate kidneys.

Upon learning of their kidney failure, both sisters and my mother brought home numerous pamphlets on the subject and the options of dealing with it. They made many, many visits to the kidney center in Asheville, North Carolina. I watched Reba and Mother hook up for their kidney dialysis. Three times a week, Mother traveled to the DaVita dialysis center where she would be connected to a machine for hours at a time. Reba took dialysis at home. Dialysis is painful. It involves tubes and needles. I hated to see my mother and sister suffer so.

One day, I received a telephone call from a distant cousin, Julia Buckner. Julia wanted to donate her kidney to Reba. After weeks of tests, Julia was found to be a match and the surgery was scheduled at Duke University. Reba left for the hospital to receive her transplant. It was successful! Praise the Lord! Julia recovered well and returned to teaching at her local high school in Murphy, North Carolina. She is presently the campaign manager for Jane Hipps, who is running for Senator.

Years later, Kathy received a kidney transplant from a living donor, as well. Her donor was Esther Hightower. Her surgery was also successful, so again, "Praise the Lord"! Esther is a retired teacher-assistant. She enjoys spending time with her family, especially the grand-children, and she is actively involved with her church.

As for our mother, a kidney wasn’t available. Mother died on her birthday from kidney failure.

My sisters are my best friends. We’ve been together through weddings, divorce, happiness and sorrow, everything that life is made of. It’s wonderful to know that each of them of here today because of two women who made a decision to donate life.

My sisters were lucky to receive kidneys from living donors. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have someone close to them who is a match and can donate. That’s why it is so important to become an organ donor. That little heart on your driver’s license can mean so much.

Would you like to be an organ donor? This is a question that, as a Driver License Examiner, I ask customers every day. I hope the answer is, ‘Yes! I want to be an organ donor’. When they answer, ‘yes’, they agree to pass along their life to someone else, someone who is waiting to receive an organ. Maybe their organ doesn’t function properly or maybe they never had one. Whatever the reason, when a customer answers, ‘yes’, someone else who is waiting for a kidney, heart, liver, or another organ, just received the precious gift of life.

Customers come into Department of Motor Vehicles every day. Most of these customers, I’ll never see again. For those of you who answer, ‘Yes, I want to be an organ donor’, thank you. Thank you for allowing a part of you to benefit someone in need. You may never know whose life you just saved. Who knows, the gift of life you just agreed to give, may even be mine.