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Organ donations encouraged during Donate Life Month


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — A flag raised Tuesday outside a Mercer County hospital is part of a continuing effort encouraging people to donate organs and give others in need the gift of life.

The Donate Life Month flag was run up a flagpole outside WVU Medicine Princeton Community Hospital to show that April is the month for donating life.

“For us here and our hospital, it’s really important for us to talk about this because as a health care facility our job is to save lives, and that’s what organ donation does,” said Karen Bowling, president and CEO WVU Medicine Princeton Community Hospital. “It saves lives. And we’re proud that we partner with CORE.”

CORE is the Center for Organ Recovery & Education, said Lauren Stone, the organization’s professional liaison at the hospital.

“Every year, Donate Life America develops a theme for National Donate Life Month,” Stone said. “This year, the theme was inspired by shining stars in the night sky. Stars remind us that even on the darkest night, there is light. And, just as stars illuminate the night sky, so too does donation. Giving hope and light to so many.”

In 2023 CORE, supported by its hospital partners, pushed the limits of what was previously though possible in its mission to save lives and heal through organ and tissue donations, Stone said.

“The result was a fifth consecutive year of saving lives and healing more lives across western Pennsylvania and West Virginia than the year before,” she said. “Through the selflessness of nearly 2,000 organ or tissue donors, we facilitated the transplantation of 928 organs and 1,003 corneas while also healing more than 100,000 lives through tissue donation.”

Matt Adams, the hospital’s director of facilities engineering, recalled how he donated part of his liver to Dr. Amos Lane, the hospital’s director of emergency medicine, last year. He said that thousands of people currently need organ transplants.

“The way I see organ donation is broken down to three things,” he said. “There’s a tremendous need. If you don’t know there are 106,000 on the list that I found in 2021 which has grown since. In 2023 there were 46,000 donors living and deceased. By my calculations, that’s a huge shortfall in donations. There’s a tremendous need.”

“When the need presents itself, I implore you to take the opportunity,” Adams said. “I’m glad I did. What that turns into is a sacrifice. I think we’re all here in health care because we want to serve others.

“I think it was a tremendous opportunity to serve someone else. I didn’t do it for myself. I didn’t want it to be public, I don’t want to go on the news, I didn’t want to do those things because that’s not why you do it. You do organ donation because when it was all said and done, his 12-year-old son gave me a hug and said, ‘You saved my dad’s life.” Every bit of it was worth it. I don’t care how long it took. I don’t care about the pain. I don’t care about any of it. That’s what organ donation is. And whether it’s on your driver’s license or it’s a living donor, there’s a 12 year old somewhere who needs their mother or father safe. So if you have the opportunity, please take the step.”

Suzanne Thompson of Mercer County spoke about her husband, the late Will Thompson, who was a staff sergeant in the Army and the West Virginia Army National Guard. Will Thompson served for more than 23 years, and was stationed at Camp Stryker near the Baghdad Airport during his last deployment.

While there, he was among the people exposed to the smoke generated by burn pits used to dispose of toxic substances. A physician who later examined him said that his lungs “looked like an 80-year-old coal miner’s lungs,” she said.

“Will underwent his first double-lung transplant in 2012,” Suzanne Thompson said. “Despite being a wonderful patient and taking all of the precautions and medications after transplant that were instructed by his doctors, over the course of three years he developed periods of lung rejection and infections and ended up back on oxygen. In March 2016, he had another double-lung transplant.”

Will Thompson passed away in December 2021.

“Will and our family was always very thankful for his two organ donors and their families,” she said. “We wrote letters to them after the transplant and never heard back from the first donor’s family but we did hear back from his second donor’s mom. Wills donor’s name was Lori.”

Suzanne Thompson said her husband had nine more years with his family thanks to the lung donors and their families.

“We hope they know how much we appreciated them and Will took care of them and honored them as best as he could,” she said. “They lived on through Will and gave us so many more days with him.”