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Originally published: 2013-04-25 10:32:29
Last modified: 2013-04-25 10:32:27

Decide to save lives: be an organ donor

by Sherrie Norris

Heather Greene of Deep Gap says that had she not received a new heart in February 2012, she would not be alive today.

Current statistics indicate that an average of 18 people die each day waiting for a transplant. A new name is added to the transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. 

Today, more than 100,000 Americans are waiting for life-saving organ transplants -- about 3,500 of those are North Carolinians. The good news? One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people.

That's the latest news from Carolina Donor Services in its efforts to remind thge public that April is National Donate Life Month -- and a perfect time to decide to be a donor.

It is the hope of CDS and organ recipients that more people will decide to become donors during this month of awareness. 

Greene is a wife and mother whose life was changed forever when she received a heart transplant on Feb. 24, 2012, after eight years of living with an incurable heart disease.

"Organ donation is close to my heart," Greene said. "I want to make people aware of the importance of being a donor.  Because of one person's foresight and selflessness, I was given a second chance at life."

Every new day is a gift, Greene said. "And every morning when I wake up, I thank God for allowing me another day to live life," she said. 

Not a day passes, Greene said, during which she doesn't think of her donor -- and the donor's family -- and with gratitude for giving her what she calls "the precious gift."

" A promise I made to my donor's family was to live life to the fullest and never waste a moment," Greene said. "That is exactly what I am doing. After a long time fighting heart disease, I am getting busy living." 

Greene's condition was critical when she received the new heart. 

"And, while the last year has probably been the hardest year of my life, I am blessed more than I could ever imagine," she said. "I am alive and my life is simply amazing. I have a strong heart and I am enjoying life to the fullest with my husband, Kevin, and our son, Maddox."

Having health issues is no excuse for not making the decision to share life, Greene said. 

"A lot of people can become a donor, including me, a transplant patient. I am a donor," she said. "Your medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissues may be donated."

Greene said she would like to publicly express her gratitude to her family, friends, all the churches and everyone who prayed for her during her illness -- and for all the support she and her family have received in the past year, especially. "It has all meant so much to us," she said, "and we ask that you continue to remember us in your prayers. There is always that chance of rejection or complications."

Judi Bryant of Boone has been a volunteer with Carolina Donor Services for 10 years and a Donate Life ambassador since the program's inception six years ago.  

"I have had the opportunity to speak with various groups, such as high school health classes, civic groups, church groups and at health fairs, about 'What Organ Donation Means to Me,'" she said. "Having a granddaughter who has received two kidney transplants, the program is dear to my heart, as she probably would not still be with us otherwise."

As Donate Life ambassadors, Bryant and her husband visit DMV offices in five North Carolina counties each quarter, providing information for the office clients, while encouraging the staff to always ask driver's license applicants if they wish to be an organ or eye donor.  

"I am happy to say that, through the years, we have seen an increase in those who are familiar with, and participate in, having the 'heart' placed on their driver's license," Bryant said. 

The "heart" indicates that the licensed driver has made the decision to be an organ donor, a choice that relieves the individual's family at the time of death  of making a difficult decision. 

For more information or to register as a donor, visit http://www.carolinadonorservices.org, call (800) 200-2672 or contact your local DMV office.