The Donate Life flag will fly alongside the American flag at Medical Center plaza during April. (photo by Susan Urmy)
BY: JESSICA PASLEY the Reporter, Vanderbilt Medical Center's Weekly Newspaper
Vanderbilt kicked off national Donate Life Month with an inaugural flag-raising ceremony this week.
The event is part of a national awareness campaign, Flags Across America, designed to mobilize the national transplant community to educate the public on the need for organ, eye and tissue donation.
Vanderbilt will fly the Donate Life flag during the month of April. Nearly 100 people gathered on the Medical Center plaza to pay homage to the 54 donors of 2009, their families and the hospital staff who care for these patients.
“The medical procedure of transplantation is a remarkable act and one that saves lives,” said C. Wright Pinson, M.D., deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and chief executive officer of the Hospitals and Clinics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“However, the act of organ, tissue and marrow donation, the unselfish decision to give of one's self in this way, goes far beyond remarkable. It represents the very best that human beings have to offer one another — compassion, generosity and hope.
“Thank you for the gift of life,” Pinson said. “Saying thank you seems inadequate, but it's the best we can do. The 181 people who received organs and tissue from these 54 donors will never forget these life-saving gifts.”
The parents of 14-year-old Sarah Beth Whitehead agree. Sarah Beth died in 2005 from spinal meningitis. All of her major organs were donated.
“As a parent, one of the hardest things is losing a child,” said Tresa Whitehead. “But what made one of our hardest moments bearable was knowing that someone else's quality of life improved.
“It brought us great joy knowing that she (Sarah Beth) was doing that. She gave others hope and life.”
Whitehead said there was great symbolism in the flag ceremony.
“As I looked at the American flag, I remembered all the men and women who have fought for our country. Who have donated their lives and time for us so that we can be here today.
“There is a wonderful correlation with organ donation,” she said. “It is fitting that the flags fly together in honor and memory of all those who have died and given the gift of life to others.”
In the United States, more than 106,000 people are waiting for life-saving organ transplants, with 2,200 of them in Tennessee. Every 18 minutes a patient dies while waiting for an organ, while a new name is added every 11 minutes.
In an effort to educate the community about the need for life-saving organs and tissue and to increase the number of online registrants, Vanderbilt and Tennessee Donor services launched Donate Life Vanderbilt in 2009.
Organizers are urging Vanderbilt employees and students to take a 10-question online survey at http://www.VTCDonateLife.com. Faculty, staff and visitors are also encouraged to go to http://www.tndonorregistry.org to register to be organ donors.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network. NEW for Ontario: recycleMe.org - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here
In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at ShareYourLife.org or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants. One tissue donor can help up to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant.