There are more than 113,000 patients in the United States currently on the organ transplant waitlist, with another name being added to the list every 10 minutes. Unfortunately, some people never make it off of the list with an average of 18 dying every day.
The numbers show that the need is great, but one donor can save several lives. More specifically, an organ donor can save up to eight lives and a tissue donor can enhance more than 50. With so many patients impacted by the transplant process, you do not have to look far to hear powerful donation stories of hope and healing.
Amanda Smith, a surgical technologist in Endoscopy at Carilion New River Valley Medical Center (CNRV), is just one example. When she heard that the husband of a fellow co-worker, Melissa Cook, needed a kidney, she did not think twice about donating.
Amanda knew Melissa, her husband Scott and the rest of their family very well. She also knew that if she could donate one of her kidneys to Scott, it would save his life and greatly improve his quality of life overall. However, before hearing that Scott needed a kidney, she had not thought much about organ donation.
“But when the situation arose, I knew it was something I was supposed to do,” said Amanda, who felt so strongly about being Scott’s donor she knew she was a match even before she was tested.
Amanda and Scott worked with Dr. Matthew at Valley Nephrology Associates, a Carilion partner practice, to prepare for the transplant surgery at the University of Virginia Health System in April 2009. She also received a great deal of support from CNRV’s Surgical Services Unit. They made her recovery a little easier by pulling together to donate PTO and also did some fundraising to help Amanda during the six weeks she had to be away from work.
“I don’t regret my decision at all,” said Amanda. “Knowing how giving Scott and Melissa are, I’m glad I could give them a better quality of life.”
Because of the transplant, Scott never had to go on dialysis and was able to keep working full time.
“I am so grateful and more than happy,” said Scott of Amanda’s selfless act. “Knowing someone would do that for you when they are not even family is amazing!”
A diabetic since age 11, Scott has received his share of transplants and is thankful for each one. His first was a kidney from his wife in 1999 and he later also underwent a pancreas transplant, something he had to wait five years for.
“I am forever grateful,” said Scott. “But at the same time, your heart breaks for the family.”
Melissa and Scott try to give back some of what they have been given by volunteering their time with LifeNet, an organ procurement agency. Through LifeNet, they educate teens getting their driver’s license about organ donation and what it has meant to them.
Scott would tell anyone who is considering organ donation to think about it and search their heart.
“The joy you get out of saving someone else’s life is indescribable,” added Amanda. “I mean, if you know you can save somebody’s life, why not do it?”
Pictured above, left to right: Melissa Cook, Scott Cook and Amanda Smith.