Give the gift of life

By By Tracy L. Brady
Record Reporter
Don't take your organs to heaven
Heaven knows we need them here
A magnet on my friend April's refrigerator bore these words, but they held little meaning to me as a child.
As I grew, I thought of that magnet when I would hear the urban legends of how doctors would prematurely harvest organs while people were still alive.
"Don't sign the donor card on your driver's license," teenagers would warn new drivers. "If you have an accident, the paramedics won't try to save your life."
Luckily, I knew better. Medical professionals and organ banks aren't vultures. Both are in the business of saving lives, not playing God.
However, I still wasn't going to sign my organs over to anyone. The yucky factor was just too much for my little teen brain to comprehend.
By the age of 20, that little magnet proved to hold great meaning to me when I discovered that Daddy had been placed on a list for a heart transplant. It wasn't long after when I renewed my driver's license and decided to become a donor.
If someone were willing to help out Daddy, then I would surely try and repay the favor.
Unfortunately, the opportunity for Daddy to be an organ recipient never came to be.
But that didn't change my mind about being a donor. Instead of being bitter about the experience, I decided to be better and one day possibly help save a member of someone else's family.
My young adult mind was now able to surpass the yucky factor and realize that my organs truly would be of no use to me after I had died-but they would to someone else.
As an adult, the words on the magnet came to mind again and again as my cousin Stephanie waited patiently for a simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant. Diabetes had taken its toll on her fragile body for nearly 20 years and required dialysis every few days for the last three years.
Three weeks ago, a young man tragically lost his life but heroically saved Stephanie's.
While Stephanie has encountered some setbacks during her recovery, the outlook is positive. She may never completely well, but at least now she has a fighting chance.
Currently 80,000 in America are awaiting organ transplant.
Last year, about 6,000 people died while on the U.S. transplant waiting list.
According to the Alabama Organ Center, about 110 people in the Alabama donate a family member's organs each year. The decision is easier made by the living donor and discussed well in advance with family members because they will ultimately give final consent.
If you are interested in becoming an organ and tissue donor, visit www.legacyalabama.org or make the appropriate indication on your driver's license.
To contact the Alabama Organ Center, call 1-800-252-3677.

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