May 21, 2024

Healt Hid

Because health is very important to us

Events honor those involved in organ donation

4 min read

Sixty-nine individuals donated their organs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2023, and they and their families were saluted on April 17 at the annual Donate Life Ceremony.

“The selfless acts of those 69 people resulted in the gifts of 182 life-saving organs,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for VUMC. And it resulted in 191 tissue donations, which restored sight to the blind, enhanced the lives of burn victims, and gave mobility to those with bone and joint injuries. Also last year, the Vanderbilt Transplant Center performed 739 organ transplants, and it is the fifth largest transplant center in the nation.

“Today we are here to honor the families with us whose loved ones made the unselfish decision to be donors and contributed to those outcomes in 739 situations for others,” said Pinson, a transplant surgeon who previously directed the Vanderbilt Transplant Center for 18 years. “This generosity resulted in someone else getting a second chance.”

The ceremony, held in the lobby of Langford Auditorium, was part of a national effort to raise awareness about the need for organ and tissue donors. In addition to honoring organ donors and their families, the ceremony salutes hospital staff who care for donors and transplant recipients. The event is a partnership between the Vanderbilt Transplant Center and Tennessee Donor Services, the federally designated donor network that facilitates organ and tissue donation in the region.

There are two types of organ donation — living donation, in which a living person can donate a kidney or a partial liver, and deceased donation, when someone gives the gift of their organs after death. Many people state their preference by choosing to be listed as organ donors on their drivers’ licenses.

Laura Hill told the story of her son, donor Beaux Hill, during the VUMC event. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

The event featured remarks from the mother of a deceased donor and a recipient of a donor organ.

Laura Hill of Williamson County, Tennessee, remembered her son, Beaux, who died last year at 22 years old. She recalled Beaux as a beautiful and very giving person who loved science, someone who designed board games, and grew mushrooms on logs. He was 13 when he decided to become an organ donor, his mother said.

Part of him lives on today, she said, in the 20-year-old man who received his left kidney, the 51-year-old woman who received his right kidney, the 64-year-old man who received his liver, and the 51-year-old woman who received his heart.

Liver transplant patient Dale Outlaw tells his story during the VUMC event. (photo by Erin O. Smith)
Liver transplant patient Dale Outlaw tells his story during the VUMC event. (photo by Erin O. Smith)

“My hero, my beautiful boy, has given the greatest gift someone can give — the gift of life,” Hill said. “We honor this selfless act of love, to honor Beaux and the other families who are here today.”

Dale Outlaw, from Dickson County, Tennessee, spoke of the gift of life that allowed him to have a lifesaving liver transplant at VUMC.

“To receive the blessing I got is bigger than anything that ever happened to me,” he said. “It just gave me a chance, maybe one day to see my grandkids, you know? And to give me a new life and give me the rest of my life and make a difference in other people’s lives along the way.”

There are more than 113,000 people in the United States waiting for transplants, said Teresa Hobt-Bingham, MSN, RN, associate nursing officer for Surgery and chair of the VUMC Organ Donation Advisory Committee. About 3,100 of those are in Tennessee and nearly 1,500 of those are at VUMC.

Anita Fuentes-Ponce, center, whose grandson, Brendon Sokol, became a donor in August 2023, was one of the speakers during Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital’s Donate Life event. (photo by Susan Urmy)
Anita Fuentes-Ponce, center, whose grandson, Brendon Sokol, became a donor in August 2023, was one of the speakers during Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital’s Donate Life event. (photo by Susan Urmy)

“When all medical efforts have been exhausted for our patients, we believe that patients and their families should have the extraordinary opportunity to leave a legacy to save and enhance the lives of others through donation,” Hobt-Bingham said.

Melisa and John Chandler with a photo of their daughter, donor Hannah Chandler, at the Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital event. (photo by Susan Urmy)
John and Melisa Chandler, parents of Hannah Chandler, who was an organ donor in 2023, participate in the Donate Life Event Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital. (photo by Susan Urmy)

In addition to the ceremony on the main campus, several other VUMC facilities celebrated Donate Life Month in April, including Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital, Vanderbilt Tullahoma-Harton Hospital, and Vanderbilt Bedford Hospital.

To learn more about becoming an organ and tissue donor, visit bethegifttoday.com.

Tennessee drivers can also choose to become organ donors on their driver’s license applications. Donors are encouraged to share their decisions with their families.

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