April is National Donate Life Month

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2018

Because April is recognized as National Donate Life Month, Donate Life Mississippi made a visit to Highland Community Hospital recently to hold a flag dedication and inform the public about the benefits of becoming an organ donor. According to Donate Life Mississippi’s mission statement, their goal is to, “inspire all Mississippians to save and enhance lives through organ, eye and tissue donations.”

To honor those who have donated organs and registered donors, Highland Community Hospital hosted the flag dedication ceremony Thursday morning.

The ceremony began with a prayer and afterwards, Sonny Soileau, from Donate Life Mississippi, shared statistics about organ donations in the state.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

According to Donate Life, there are over 1,400 citizens across Mississippi on a waiting list who need a tissue or organ transplant. Also, one organ donor can help save or improve the life of dozens of individuals. He said that at the moment, about 740,000 citizens in the state are registered donors.

“Across the country, there are over 120,000 citizens in need of a transplant,” Soileau said. “To put that in perspective, the Superdome in New Orleans holds about 60,000 people. Therefore, that means that we can fill that stadium to max capacity two different times with all the citizens who need an organ donation.”

He also said that every 10 minutes, a new person is added to the transplant waiting list and about 21 people die every day because a donor was never found.

Poplarville resident Belinda Smith attended Thursday’s ceremony to share her story. Smith said after Kira Bennett, her daughter, passed away in 2014, Smith donated her daughter’s corneas and skin tissue.

According to Donate Life, the cornea is a layer of the eye that allows a person to see when light passes through it.

“At first, I wasn’t sure if I was okay with the whole situation but after talking with other family members, we decided to donate her organs in order to help someone else,” Smith said. “She was the love of my life.”

She said that her daughter’s corneas became sight saving gifts for two individuals.

“My message to everyone is to please donate and also register to become an organ donor,” Smith said. “There is a big demand for organ donors throughout the country and many people lose their life every day because a donor cannot be found.”

Before the end of the ceremony, a moment of silence was held and a Donate Life flag was raised in front of the local hospital’s main entrance. The flag will remain in place for the rest of the month.

Citizens interested in becoming an organ donor can register by either visiting donatelifems.org, itssupereasy.org or while renewing their driver’s license.

Tissue donations can include the cornea, tendons, heart valves, veins, skin and bone while organ donations can include the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and small bowel.

“I want to thank Highland Community Hospital for allowing us to be here today and for their continuous support to Donate Life Mississippi,” Soileau said.