Why I Support Louisiana Students Learning About Organ Donation
The Louisiana Legislative Session begins today in Baton Rouge and one of the measures being considered is whether or not high school students in Louisiana should be required to learn about organ donation.
The bill (LA HB 289), by Representative Barry Ivey, is one of 800, scheduled to be heard over the two-month-long session and if passed, would require both public and charter school high school students to receive at least 30 minutes of instruction on the importance of being an organ donor with the cooperation of private organ donation entities, like the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency. Once educated about organ donation, young people can simply check a box when getting their driver’s license if they'd like to become organ donors or register online. A new poll found 41% of Americans are now registered organ donors. 39% of people in the poll said they personally know someone who's received an organ.
What a lot of people don't know, is that I'm closely acquainted with this issue. You see, my father was a transplant recipient. He received a heart transplant while I was in high school. You have no idea what an impact someone making that loving gesture can make in the lives of so many other people. My father was dying. He had his first heart attack when I was eight. He retired medically from the Air Force after 22 years as a Lt. Colonel. I have very few childhood memories that don't involve my father being sick or in the hospital.
My family moved away from Haughton, LA, the summer before my junior year in 1990 to Greenville, Ohio because our area simply didn't have the medical facilities at the time to keep him alive. He was spending most of his time at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX. My brother was out of school and living his life. My mom couldn't leave my dad or me alone. We didn't have family here. We were military. My mother's parents were in Ohio. My father's parents had long passed. It was the only option. So, we moved. It was hard. I'm not going to lie. The move took a tremendous physical toll on my father. He literally spent that summer at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Dayton, while I lived with my grandparents, kicking around their farm trying to make the cultural adjustment from mid-South Shreveport to an extremely rural mid-Western area.
Things weren't looking good. Then a miracle happened. There was a fairly new transplant program at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis). And after a long hard road, my father qualified for the program and within days, a heart was found. Those knowledgeable about these things would know it was a true miracle. In addition to having to be from someone with a matching blood type, etc... the organ has to be from someone from a similar body size and my daddy was a big man.
Thanks to the selflessness of another and their family, I got 16 more years with my father. As many of you know, he almost made it to walk me down the aisle. God love him, he finished just short of the finish line, but he tried... God, how he tried. So, thank you. God is good. Thank you to that nameless donor. Thank you to their family. Thank you for the memories you have given me and my family through your generosity. Thank you for letting my daddy be there at my high school graduation, and my college graduation, for being able to be around to hear me on the air, for giving him the chance to meet countless boyfriends, and finally meeting and blessing my choice of husband, even though we didn't make it. And, of course, to kick my butt when I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing... Which I wasn't... A lot!
So, in closing, this wasn't for me to spill my guts, it was for you to think twice the next time you step up to the counter at the DMV. Check the organ donor box. You'll be gone someday. We all will. Give the gift of love. Give the gift of life. I am.