Donors, recipients and families share their stories of life.
Organ donation provides others with a second chance at life and renewed health, enabling them to live rich and full lives. It truly is the Gift of Life. August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month, an initiative focused on bringing attention to the great need for organ donors and organ transplants among ethnic minorities, and highlighting the impact of this amazing gift.
Families, donors and recipients from the South Sound come together this month to share their stories and raise awareness of the special need of minorities for donation. Currently, ethnic minorities are in desperate need of more organ, eye, and tissue donors. They represent over 56 percent of the national organ transplant waiting list, but make up only about 30 percent of actual donors.
Here are their stories:
Donor Mom- Heather LaGasa:
Heather’s daughter, Jade, became a donor in 2015.
Jade, of Hispanic and Thai descent, was a loving, tender-hearted, sweet girl. At 18 years old, she had her whole life in front of her. Her parents were devastated when Jade completed suicide on April 27, 2015. For her mom, Heather, the fact that Jade could donate tissue and corneas meant her legacy would live on through others. “It has meant the world to us, knowing that our daughter saved a person,” said Heather.
Recipient- Antonette Paulette:
Received liver transplant in 2000.
Antonette Paulette, a young Hispanic woman from Tacoma, was just 14 years old and beginning high school when she began to notice something was wrong. Healthy her entire life, her energy suddenly, and rapidly declined. Diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, she was told a liver transplant was her only chance for survival. “I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me,” she said. “I was almost at the end of my life when they told me they found a liver. I will never be able to thank the person who chose to be a donor enough.” Today she lives an active, healthy life. A mother of two, she hopes to become an inspirational speaker and share her story to educate others about the powerful impact of organ, eye, and tissue donation.
Living Donor- Shanae Bezusko:
Donated Kidney to her Father in 2006.
Shanae, an African American from Tacoma, gave the gift of life to her father with her kidney donation. This gift gave him seven more healthy years of life, and Shanae more memories with the man she treasured most. Shanae begin planning for her kidney donation at age 10. “Dad’s life was always full of doctor’s appointments, he was unable to work, and he still managed to be an amazing primary caregiver to me,” says Shanae. As soon as her dad received her kidney, he was able to live without dialysis, walk and talk, and not be hooked up to tubes. “I was able to give him a quality of life, and additional years he would not have had,” said Shanae.
According to Kevin O’Connor, LifeCenter Northwest President & CEO, “We are committed to helping every single man, woman, and child in need, in every community, who can benefit from the gift of life. It is critically important to ensure that we reach out to minority communities, and listen to them, learn from them, and educate them on the benefits of organ and tissue donation and transplantation.”
LifeCenter Northwest works diligently every day to help bring the Gift of Life to those in need. In 2015, LCNW facilitated organ recovery from 200 generous organ donors, which resulted in 640 life-saving organ transplants. In addition, the organization recovered tissue from 524 individuals whose gifts can benefit up to 5,000 people with donations such as skin to treat burn patients, heart valves for valve replacement, and bone grafts for patients in need.
LifeCenter Northwest is a non-profit organ procurement and tissue recovery organization that serves communities throughout Alaska, Montana, North Idaho and Washington. Working collaboratively with over 200 hospitals, they cover the largest geographic area of all the 58 federally designated organ procurement organizations. Register to become a donor today at http://www.lcnw.org.