Lisa Breytenbach will represent LifeLink Foundation, a nonprofit organization that educates the community on organ and tissue donation, and provide information on organ donor registration and involvement. There will also be a special viewing of the movie, “Dying to Live,” which chronicles Kilgore and Persaud’s journey, as well as other families.
Kaysha Cranon, senior public affairs coordinator for LifeLink Foundation, said the organization educates the community about organ donation. According to United Network for Organ Sharing, at least 114,787 people nationwide are in need of a transplant. In Georgia, some 3,590 people are on a waiting list with 3,269 needing kidneys.
She said the liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, pancreas and small bowel can be donated. Donor preference can be indicated on one’s license or by visiting www.donatelifegeorgia.org and completing the online registry.
“One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people,” Cranon said. “Right now, another name is added to the waiting list every 11 minutes. Sadly, 18 people pass away daily while they wait.”
However, people are still hesitant to donate. Cranon said some people cite religious reasons. Although it is an individual’s decision, she said all major religions are supportive of organ and tissue donations. She said others fear if they are in an accident and their license indicates their desire to donate their organs that the medical team won’t work as hard to save them.
“This is not the case at all,” Cranon said. “I always tell people the first rule of medicine is ‘Do no harm.’ For every patient throughout the nation, all care that can be given to him or her is provided. It’s when that care has stopped working and you are declared dead that an organ procurement organization is contacted. There is no discussion or thought of organ donation until someone has passed away.”
Another misconception — that organ donors won’t be able to have an open casket funeral — is something else Cranon addresses: “Organ and tissue donors can have any type of funeral arrangement they want. The only people that would know you are an organ donor are your family and the people they’ve chosen to tell.”
Kilgore said she thinks everyone should consider becoming a donor, saying, “Since I’ve done it and become more aware of the impact it makes on people’s lives, it’s made me more of an advocate.”
The MDJ first chronicled Kilgore’s story in 2009. A friendship between her daughter, Mary, and Persaud’s sister, Elizabeth, was the start of it all. Kilgore said talking to Andrew Persaud’s mother also convinced her to undergo testing. Shortly after meeting the young man, Kilgore learned she was a match.
On July 18, 2008, the surgery took place at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. To this day, both Kilgore and Persaud are not only healthy, but continue to correspond at least once a month and have parties at least three times a year.
For anyone unsure about organ donation, Kilgore said to consider it because of the great, positive impact it will have on the recipient and their family. She recalls how one of her colleague’s husband received a new heart 15 years ago.
Kilgore recalls the wife saying, “When I think of the things that we have been able to do and accomplish in our relationship over the past 15 years — that would have been gone had someone not made that sacrifice.”
To this day, Kilgore said her decision and the experience has been miraculous.
“God created me in his sovereignty. He knew when he knitted me in my mother’s womb and created me and he knew exactly that one day, the need would come up for me to match this young man. Think of what God had to do to bring his family from India to Ghana to New York to Alpharetta,” she said. “It gave me an opportunity to be obedient to God. I appreciate that opportunity.”
Emory-Adventist Hospital at Smyrna is located at 3949 South Cobb Drive. The program is free, but registration is encouraged because space is limited. For more information and to register, call (770) 319-2025.