May 21, 2024

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Pause to Give Life event recognizes organ donors, patients on transplant lists

4 min read

On April 3, hospitals across the HonorBridge service area participated in a Pause to Give Life event to recognize the importance of organ donation.

A Donate Life flag was flown outside of ECU Health Medical Center to honor donors, their families, those who are waiting, and recipients who received the gift of life. Typically an outdoor ceremony, this year’s event was hosted in the Interfaith Chapel at ECU Health Medical Center due to inclement weather.

A moment of silence was held at 10:08 a.m. to signify that one donor can save eight lives.

Last year, ECU Health Medical Center had 31 organ donors and 75 organs were transplanted while 17 were sent out for research. The Medical Center had 49 tissue donors with 140 tissues recovered. Additionally, there were 80 eye donors with 98 corneas transplanted, 28 placed for research and 16 whole globes were recovered. This marked a record number of transplants performed at ECU Health Medical Center, including 130 kidney and kidney-pancreas transplants and 5 pediatric transplants.

ECU Health Medical Center President Jay Briley gives opening remarks during the Pause to Give Life event at ECU Health Medical Center's Interfaith Chapel.
ECU Health Medical Center President Jay Briley gives opening remarks during the Pause to Give Life event at ECU Health Medical Center’s Interfaith Chapel.

During the event, Jenny Godwin, a former nurse at ECU Health Medical Center, spoke about the importance of organ donation. In February, Godwin donated a kidney to the 3-year-old daughter of a co-worker and said she felt called to step up for a friend.

“We knew I was going to be a match when I went in for testing. It was this feeling that me and my husband had and we felt very passionate about doing this,” Godwin said. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to experience peace throughout the whole experience so it was amazing.”

In her time at ECU Health, Godwin worked on transplant teams and she said it was a full-circle moment to be on the other side as a patient.

She said the opportunity to be an organ donor has given her a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

“People always say it’s better to give than receive and I can tell you it’s been an awesome feeling to know that I have given her life,” Godwin said. “I mean, she’s 3 years old and has her whole life ahead of her. It’s really awesome to know that I was able to be a part of that.”

Godwin said she was tired for the first couple weeks after surgery but a little more than a month removed, she’s feeling great and back to her old self – including running around with children of her own.

Dr. David Leeser, chief of transplantation at ECU Health Medical Center, also spoke during the event and said it’s important to recognize those who have said “Yes” to organ donation, whether it is as a living donor or a donation after a person has passed. He also said with 100,000 patients across the country and 3,000 patients here in North Carolina waiting for a donation, it’s crucial to raise awareness of the need for organ donation.

He said transplantation takes a village and none of what he does as a transplant surgeon is possible without the many teams working to make each surgery possible.

Jenny Godwin speaks during the Pause to Give Life event.
Jenny Godwin, who recently donated a kidney, shares her story during the Pause to Give Life event.

“The transplant team is huge – you have organ procurement organizations like HonorBridge, they spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to come to hospitals, meet with families and get donors,” Dr. Leeser said. “Once they have the donor, they arrange having surgeons available to take out the organs for transplant and figure out who the organ is going to and all the pieces that go into getting the organ to the recipient hospital before the transplant even occurs. Each transplant program has social workers, dietitians, nurses and physicians – everyone is so crucial to make sure a transplant is successful. We stand on the shoulders of so many dedicated professionals that do the hard work of getting our patients ready to go to the operating room.”

At ECU Health, we are grateful for the over five million North Carolinians who have registered as organ, eye and tissue donors. We also appreciate the efforts of our North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles partners, who ask the questions every day as part of their job. Together, we are united in a mission to save and heal lives and create a culture where donation becomes a fundamental human responsibility.

Those interested in learning about organ donations or interested in becoming an organ donor can visit ECU Health’s donor registration portal or the Donate Life website for more.

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