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Residents encourage organ donation

By Staff
FROM THE HEART Heart transplant recipient Robert Everett talks about his second chance at life from the cab of a freight train at a railroad yard in Meridian. Photo by Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Aug. 12, 2001
An average of 16 people in the United States die every day waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Every 14 minutes, a new name is added to the list of people waiting for a donation.
Nationwide, 80,000 need organ transplants. More than 600 of them are Mississippians. Stephanie Denham of Meridian wishes more people would become organ and tissue donors.
A registered nurse for 20 years, Denham has served as a donor family representative on the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency's board of directors.
MORA, located in Jackson, is the federally designated organ procurement organization for the majority of the state. The federal government requires hospitals to have policies and procedures in place to give families the opportunity to donate organs and tissue after a loved one dies.
Denham's daughter, Lorien, was killed by a drunk driver. Her first name came from J.R.R. Tolkien's book, "The Hobbit," one of the 9-year-old's favorites. It means "paradise" and "dream flower." She was about a third of the way through Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy when she died on Good Friday, 1991.
Lorien's heart, liver, left kidney and left eye were used to help others.
She said organ donation does not delay the funeral and friends and family can't tell organ procurement has taken place after the fact.
Although MORA does handle some tissue donation as well, cornea and other tissue donations are administered by the Mississippi Lions Eye and Tissue Bank in Jackson.
Organs can only be taken from a person who is brain dead, but whose heart has been kept beating by a ventilator. Organ transplants are done as quickly as possible. Tissues such as corneas and skin can be taken from donors for a period of time after the heart has stopped, maintained after procurement in special solutions.
Although donor cards are available and people can let their intentions be known on their driver's licenses, organ and tissue donors must inform their next-of-kin of their wishes because that is who has to give permission for donation to occur. There is no statewide or national registry of donors.
One organ and tissue donor can save and enhance the lives of up to 50 people.
Three area residents who received liver transplants helped to organize the Second Chance Transplant Support Group in Meridian Linda Allan of Union, William Blackwell of Decatur and Tammy Jones of Philadelphia.
The group meets on the second Saturday of each month at Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center. It is made up of pre- and post-transplant patients and their families, donor families and medical personnel. New members are welcome.
For more information, call 656-8674.