POINT PLEASANT – “And there she is, on the other side,” said Jody Goard, sharing photos of her now healthy daughter Kenya, the recipient of a liver transplant.
Goard, a certified nurse practitioner at Pleasant Valley Hospital (PVH), was one of the guest speakers at this week’s “Donate Life” ceremony at PVH to raise awareness of, and honor stories about, organ donation.
Goard’s sister Abi turned out to be a match for Kenya who was saved by a living donor. Kenya also received blood vessels from a deceased donor. Without both, she would’ve died.
“It’s a horrible feeling that someone has to die so your child can live,”Goard said. “There are no words. Thank you.”
Another living donor, Mike Stapleton, 22, simply said “God guided me to what I needed to do.”
He explained he had a cousin who was dying of liver disease and through a special set of circumstances, which he attributed to a higher power, he found out about it and was tested.
“(It’s) nothing but joy,” Stapleton said about being able to save his cousin’s life by giving part of his liver.
Also speaking, Tim Johnson, who is both a liver recipient and lost a stepson who ended up being an organ donor. Johnson said he’d seen both sides of how organ donation affects families and lives. He talked about his stepson Dakota being injured in a car accident and how Dakota saved four lives by donating his organs. Johnson himself was saved by a liver transplant and three years later he was thriving.
Brittany Franklin, a cousin to Tré Smith, the young man critically injured in a house fire in Point Pleasant earlier this year, spoke about how skin donors had helped save her cousin’s life – Smith continues to recover. Franklin then sang a rendition of “My Heart Will Go On.”
Glen Washington, CEO of PVH, spoke about Mildren Shields a patient at PVH who was an organ donor. A 60-year old woman in Charleston received her kidney and a 56-year old man received her liver in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Washington said PVH Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) liaison Katy Larck, the PVH staff and CORE work closely with families with the goal of honoring and respecting their wishes as they contemplate the life-saving gift their loved one can give to someone else.
The ceremony also consisted of an opening prayer by Pastor John Holland who has started a morning worship service at the PVH chapel weekdays. Nicole Cornell from CORE also spoke about organ donation – CORE had an informational table set up to sign people up as organ donors.
In addition, members of the American Legion Post 23 of Point Pleasant held a flag raising ceremony outside PVH, raising the American Flag and the “Donate Life” flag which will fly outside the hospital through April which is National Donate Life Month.