Luncheon offers education on organ donation

Thelma Johnson, of Albany, shares the story of her allowing a tissue donation to be taken from her 15-year-old son, following his death five years ago during Thursday’s “Gift of Life” luncheon.

Thelma Johnson, of Albany, shares the story of her allowing a tissue donation to be taken from her 15-year-old son, following his death five years ago during Thursday’s “Gift of Life” luncheon.

ALBANY, Ga. — Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler and officials from LifeLink of Georgia hosted a luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday as a way to help spread the word on the importance of organ and tissue donation.

The “Gift of Life” luncheon featured presentations from LifeLink, testimonials from organ recipients and survivors of those who have donated, and an interactive session with those in attendance to get feedback on how the cause could be furthered on a regional level.

“There is a critical shortage of available transplant therapy,” said Carla Hawkins, educational specialist with LifeLink. “There are a lot of fears and misconceptions out there hindering people from signing up (to donate).

“When people aren’t aware, they are more apprehensive.”

Among the misconceptions Hawkins said she has heard are the potential unwillingness on a hospital’s part of save a donor’s life, or that a donor would be unable to have an open-casket funeral.

“We want people to leave with a positive outlook,” she said at the luncheon. “It’s not about death; it’s about life.”

More than 110,000 people are currently on the national waiting list for organ donation, and that number increases every 11 minutes, Hawkins said.

Debbie McDonald, a kidney and pancreas recipient, was among those who shared their story at the luncheon.

McDonald, an Albany native, received the organs as a result of damage done from diabetes — a diagnosis she received when she was 10 years old.

Thanks to the transplants, she said, she was able to eventually get off of insulin shots.

“I have an improved quality of life; I was blessed to get those transplants,” McDonald said. “It can save lives and improve lives. I would encourage anyone to donate; anybody can sign up to donate.

“(Being given a second chance) makes me know what’s important in life.”

Thelma Johnson, the mother of the late Shaquille Johnson — a freshman lineman at Westover High School who died in January 2008 — shared the experience of having to consent to donate her son’s tissue.

Shaquille had undergone knee surgery a few weeks before collapsing at home and being rushed to the hospital, where he later died.

Since Shaquille’s death turned out to be a cardiac death, only his tissues — rather than his organs — were viable for transplant, his mother said.

“I was one child less, so I felt like a failure,” his mother said Thursday.

Johnson said she was turned off at first by the phone call she received asking about a potential donation — but she did say yes.

“By donating organs, we are becoming more Christlike; we are saving lives,” Johnson said. “It is a way to honor (Shaquille’s) life, a way to remember him.”

Also present at the luncheon were various public safety officials from throughout the area. A donor designation station was also set up at the event for those wishing to sign up to become organ donors.


Sister_Ruby 2 years, 6 months ago

Can you eat lunch and listen to somebody talking about removing organs out of dead people bodies and putting it in somebody else body? I CAN'T !!!!!!!!!!


ga_peach992001 2 years, 6 months ago

As a patient advocate for the Amyloidosis Support Groups I have met many people that have had organ transplants, including one with a triple organ transplant (heart, liver, kidney). Because of the generosity of others, they are living good and productive lives. Sign up to be an organ donor if you have not already. It's the ultimate way to recycle! Don't take your organs with you to heaven, we need them here on earth! You can save a life by donating!


chinaberry25 2 years, 6 months ago

Folks can do what they want as far as organ donation, but I will NEVER ever sign a organ donor card. A young man was killed in a car accident and was dead on the scene in Lee County. He had a learners license in his pocket signed as an organ donor. They took him to Phoebe and harvested his organs. His parents got a bill for $14000. They were holding fund raisers to pay this outlandish bill. Count me out.


marvelmania 2 years, 6 months ago

@Chinaberry25 for organ donation or tissue recovery, the family is not financially responsible. The donation is considered a gift and their is no cost/payment associated with that gift. The family would be responsible for medical care received prior to being deemed appropriate for organ, eye or tissue donation.


marvelmania 2 years, 6 months ago

@Chinaberry25 with organ, eye and tissue donation the Next of Kin is responsible for the medical care received by their loved one until it can be determined if they are suitable for donation. If the individual has signed up to be a donor and he is deemed suitable for donation, the family is offered the opportunity to honor those wishes. At that time, the family is not financially responsible for the medical care received until organ, eye and tissue donation is complete.


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