Saturday, April 24, 2010

Donor Sabbath Service

This morning Campbell UMC hosted an event for Mid-America Transplant Services. It was a Donor Sabbath Service, and it was the first time I had been a part of one. I had spoken with others about them, and knew they were very meaningful, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how moving it was.

It was an amazing experience. I was humbled to be included, offering a simple word of welcome at the beginning of the time. The morning featured several particularly memorable moments. There were slideshows of pictures of organ donors scattered throughout the service. People were moved to tears, seeing their loved ones on the screen.

A woman who had received a cornea transplant was there to say thank you to the families of the donors for their gifts. Because someone decided to donate tissue, she is now able to see her grandchildren. She began to cry as she spoke, and they were beautiful tears of grief and joy that many shared with her in that moment.

The father of a boy who had received a donated liver 5 years ago told their story, very heavy with emotion, then introduced his son who ran up to the podium. He ended his very powerful presentation by thanking the families for their decisions to donate life, saying that a decision like theirs was what made it possible for him to be standing beside his son this morning.

There was a moving candle lighting ceremony in memory and celebration of life in which the family of an organ donor lit a candle, then the recipients of donated organs lit candles in response.

The most poignant moment for me was when the families of the donors were able to come forward one at a time and speak aloud the name of their loved one who had died. They then each received a gift, handed to them by an organ recipient. The gift was a pin, a star shape with a spiral in the center, itself designed by an organ donation recipient. The parents of the boy from whom her kidney and pancreas had come told her that there was a certain star in the sky that represents their son, who is watching over her. And so in the pin, the star is for him and the spiral is to symbolize the continuity of life.

As each family came forward to speak aloud the name of their son, daughter, wife, husband, the song “You Raise Me Up” was being played on piano and flute. After all had come forward, the main speaker said, “I have one more name that I’d like to include in the list.” She then spoke aloud the name of the father of the flutist, Rachel, whose dad was able to be an organ donor when he died.

The whole service was so powerful. It struck me how, no matter where each one had come from, no matter what the life experience of each one was, from a variety of perspectives and situations, they all had a common bond that is deeper than can be expressed. As the names filled the sanctuary, one after the other, everyone present was moved in some way. Tears and smiles at the same time – a unique feeling that simply cannot be described, only experienced.

I do not think I have ever been closer to truly understanding what resurrection is than during this incredible moment. I am hopeful that we can continue to host the Donor Sabbath for a long time.

As a part of the service, a doctor spoke about the facts and figures of organ and tissue donation in our nation. The numbers went by really fast, so I didn’t get them exactly, but he indicated that there are more than 107,000 people waiting for organs today. He also cited the number of people who die while waiting, which I cannot remember exactly, but it is way high.

He also told us how many deaths there are where there would be the possibility to donate tissue or organs, then indicated that (if I remember right) less than half of those people actually do. Again if I remember the numbers correctly, the number of waiting-list deaths is less than the number of donation-eligible deaths who decide not to donate. I inferred (though he did not say it outright) that if more people would have donated, those deaths need not have happened.

Please let your family know right now that you want to be an organ and tissue donor when you die. Tell them now, tell all of them, and remind them often. Register with your state donor registry, do the driver’s license thing, carry a donor card, and tell your loved ones exactly what you want to happen. After the Donor Sabbath, I immediately went home and told Erin to make sure every single part of me that it is possible to donate, I want to be donated.
Click here for more donor info.
Each person who becomes a donor can affect the lives of up to 50 other people! It is truly an amazing gift.


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Dave said...

According to a new survey by Donate Life America 43 percent of people are undecided, reluctant or do not wish to have their organs and tissue donated after their deaths. Is this because Americans don't know there is an organ shortage? No. The survey also reports that 78 percent realize there are more people who need organ transplants in the U.S. than the number of donated organs available.

Meanwhile, the number of people who need transplants keeps growing. As of April 1, 2010, there were over 106,700 people on the national transplant waiting list. More than half of these people will die before they get a transplant, while Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

Just about every single one of the 43% of Americans who aren't willing to register as organ donors would accept an organ transplant if they needed one to live. As long as we let non-donors jump to the front of the waiting list when they need transplants we'll always have an organ shortage.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- allocate donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs. UNOS, which manages the national organ allocation system, has the power to make this simple policy change. No legislative action is required.

Americans who want to donate their organs to other registered organ donors don't have to wait for UNOS to act. They can join LifeSharers, a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.

Giving organs first to organ donors will save more lives by convincing more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.