Jackson General Hospital hosted a National Donate Life Blue & Green day on Friday, April 5, for National Donate Life Month.
According to the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE), April is a time for everyone affected by organ donation to come together and encourage others to register as organ, tissue and cornea donors.
They encourage everyone, whether a recipient of a transplant, a living donor, someone who has lost a love one who became a hero, or are waiting for a life-saving transplant, to join them in spreading awareness during Donate Life Month.
CORE representative Kayla Gray introduced guest speakers, Courtney Winter and Lisa Johnson.
The 2019 Miss West Virginia Chocolate Festival queen Courtney Winter spoke about the recent loss of her pageant friend and mentor, Trorie Atkinson Olszewski.
“Trorie was kind, beautiful, and full of life,” Winter said. “In high school she founded the Living In Kind Environments (LIKE) organization with the purpose of making the world a better place.”
Following Olszewski’s untimely death, the decision was made to donate her gifts so others could live on through her.
Winter has made organ donation her pageant platform and encourages everyone to consider becoming an organ donor. Her motto is, “Someone can not help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
The next speaker was Lisa Johnson.
Johnson received the phone call every mother dreads on Sept. 14, 2012. Her 26-year-old daughter, Jasmine Nicole Moore, had been involved in a serious auto accident and had sustained severe head trauma. She had been life-flighted to Charleston General Hospital.
At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16, the final test was run and the family was then told that Moore was gone. She was declared brain dead, it was then that she was informed her daughter was listed as an organ donor.
“I was shocked,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know. At that point I looked at my husband beside me and said, ‘she’s going to live on’.”
Through Moore’s decision to become an organ donor, four lives have been saved, two more were given sight, and through total donation of skin, tissue, and blood, 232 lives have been touched.
“When I was a little girl growing up, I always thought of heroes as firemen and police officers, but since I have become a mom to an angel, I realize they are the heroes,” Johnson said.
Johnson and her family have made it their mission in life to spread the word about organ donation as they share the story of their hero.
Bruce Turner also attended the JGH event. In June of 2018, he became a living donor.
“I had read a story about JoAnne Burka who’s friend was needing a kidney, but had passed away before receiving one,” Turner said. “She went ahead and donated one of hers anyway. I then questioned what I could do to give back?”
Burka’s story inspired Turner to become an organ donor. He completed all the testing and was matched with a lady in Beckley who was in need of a kidney.
June 9, 2018, Turner donated his kidney to someone he had no relation to, but the recipient is now healthy and active again.
“It’s really hard to believe how much being a donor has benefited me,” Turner said. “Just to know she is now healthy and I had a part in that is reward enough for me.”
Anyone interested in becoming an organ, tissue, and cornea donor can register at core.org/register.