HICKORY, N.C. — April is National Donate Life Month. More than 106,000 people in the U.S. are in need of a life-saving organ transplant, namely kidneys according to the U.S. Department of Health and Services.
3,355 of those people who need an organ transplant are right here in North Carolina. Aside from the need for organ donations, there's a discussion about support. Fortunately, there's a good network for that.
LifeShare Carolinas is a nonprofit that works with organ donations, and recovery. Community service manager Kate McCullough said an organ donor has the potential to save eight lives, and a tissue donor can help 75 people or more in some cases.
“We consider everyone who says 'yes' to being an organ and tissue donor to be a hero because when you say 'yes', you give hope to all those people, those 106,000 people who are on the waiting list,” she said.
McCullough adds that there are some misconceptions about organ donations. Some people think that if they get in an accident, they won’t get life-saving medical treatment if they are a donor.
“Those health care team workers are focused on saving that person's life. They're not looking through their purse or their wallet looking for a driver's license,” she said, referring to the red heart that is placed on a driver's license or ID card for registered organ donors. “They're focused on life-saving measures, we want everyone's life to be saved. But when a life cannot be saved, and when there is no hope for a meaningful recovery, that's when organ eye and tissue donation can be considered.”
Advocates agree it's a gift that helps many families.
“It's such a beautiful legacy that we can leave. When we are gone, we can live on through the recipients whose lives we have saved and are completely changed,” said McCullough. “It gives the recipient’s family more chances with their loved one, more time with their loved one. Donation is also very healing for the family of the donor.”
That gift has helped a Hickory man find new hope in life after getting a kidney transplant.
Marvin Hector has a long family history of kidney disease. After three years on dialysis, he received a call he thought would never come.
“Around 4:30, the phone rings and she was like, 'this is Tamara from the Baptist hospital. May I speak to Mr. Hector?' I immediately just burst into tears because I knew exactly what it was,” said Lavonta Hector, his wife.
“To be honest, I thought I was going to be on dialysis forever, because my dad was on dialysis, like 26 or 28 years,” said Marvin.
The last few years have been challenging, filled with worry, doctor appointments, and medical bills.
“It's just a scary thing,” said Marvin. “You know, like, the woman told me -- one of the nurses --- she said 'being on dialysis shortens your lifespan'. She said because it takes so much out of you.”
It was also digging into the Hectors' finances as the bills kept piling high.
“It was financially straining because I’m the only one working,” said Lavonta. "The travel, the hospital stays, and the financial responsibility of paying those bills. It's been a journey.”
That journey finally took a turn on March 30. Hector was off to surgery. Thanks to an organ donor, he got the transplant. He said it saved his life.
“Looking at me get a kidney, like all the people that were on dialysis, they are happy that I got a kidney,” said Marvin. “It makes them happy because it gives them hope that they're going to get one. I want people to feel like I felt when you do get a kidney.”
An organ donor of 17 years himself, he encourages others to sign up.
“If somebody needs something, I would do it all over. If somebody needed something from me, I would give it to them,” said Marvin. “We are not on this earth to live forever, but just try to live your best life.”
Marvin was not the only one in his family to receive a call. His nephew who was also on dialysis underwent a kidney transplant the night before his appointment.
Marvin is looking forward to his 18-year wedding anniversary next month. He's planning a big celebration. With his health on the right track, he can put his focus on his wife and his son who have been by his side.
“I'm getting a second chance at life,” said Marvin.
“This is another chapter for us to see what our future holds,” said Lavonta. “I'm very humbled to have gone through this with him would not change a thing, but we are so blessed that we did receive a gift from the donor."
If you are interested in becoming an organ donor you can sign up through organizations like Lifeshare Carolinas or during your next trip to the DMV.
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