Many Americans do not know what it’s like to need an organ donation or to have a family member who desperately needs one. But Rev. Mary Frazier, senior pastor of the Bread of Life Evangelistic Outreach Church in East Palo Alto, has direct experience with the life-giving power that an organ transplant can bring.
Rev. Frazier shared her experience with organ donations when she spoke at a Fellowship of Faith luncheon held November 10, at the Ecumenical Hunger Program in East Palo Alto. During her presentation, she talked about her grandchild, Kamaria, who needed a liver transplant when she was six months old. At the time, Kamaria was fifth on the list of recipients. Frazier told her listeners how her prayers were answered when her granddaughter received the “gift of life” from someone who donated a liver to her. Kamaria is now ten years old.
Ayanna Anderson, the luncheon’s guest speaker, gave more support to the idea that donated organs are gifts when she told the story of Chris Henry. Henry was a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals when he died after a serious auto accident. Anderson said that before he died, his mother, Carolyn Henry Gillespie, decided to donate her son’s organs, which included his corneas, lungs, kidneys, heart, liver and pancreas. The donation saved the lives of four people.
Anderson, who is the Community Development Liaison for the West Bay Region of the California Transplant Donor Network (CTDN), told the audience about the process involved in organ donations as well as the great need for organ donors.
Anderson emphasized that personal stories like Kamaria’s and Chris Henry’s inspire those who would not have considered making an organ donation to become donors.
After Anderson’s presentation, Conrad Venox, a regular luncheon attendee, shared with the group that he signed up to be a whole body donor, which would allow him, upon his death, to contribute organ and tissue donations to as many as fifteen people. During the question and answer session, Venox asked, “If you are poor, with no insurance, can you really get a transplant?”
Anderson responded that it would be a difficult proposition for someone who is poor to get the specialized surgery necessary for an organ transplant and to be able to afford the highly expensive medications that organ recipients have to take for life. But she said that there are ways for those of less means to become an organ recipient: such as having willing pro bono medical personnel or getting public benefits like Medi-Cal and Medicare, if a patient can access them.
According to Anderson, the CTDN is always looking for ways to increase the number of organ donors and distributes materials that address cultural, racial and language differences. The discussion of the subject spurred several marketing ideas. For example, it was suggested that the CTDN could take advantage of the “season for giving” at the end of the year to encourage more people to become donors.
It was also suggested that there could be a National Donor’s Sabbath and that pastors and other spiritual leaders could create an on-going message about the value of becoming an organ donor. Anderson informed her audience about the different options for becoming a donor.
She said, for example, that donors can specify exactly what parts they will donate. If someone is a whole body donor, then they can express the desire for their body to be used, however, the doctors see fit. But, Anderson cautioned that a donor's family members should be informed of a pending donation in case they disapprove and want to intervene, which would hold up the process.
To get more information about organ donations and the California Transplant Donor Network (CTDN), go to the agency's website at http://www.ctdn.org. To get more information about the Fellowship of Faith luncheons, which are held monthly and attended by local pastors and other members of this area's faith community, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact Nozipo Wobogo, the author of the article, email email@example.com. Henrietta J. Burroughs contributed to this article.