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Event promotes organ donation

Apr. 01, 2013 @ 11:54 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Donna Bias considers herself a living example as to why people should donate their organs.

Doctors, in 1991, predicted the Proctorville, Ohio, had two years to live due to a rare liver disease. That deadline passed and she continued to wait until the day arrived, Sept. 11, 1994.

Now at 64 years old, Bias volunteers her time urging others to donate their organs. She told her story Monday during a Donate Life event at St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington. It included a flag raising ceremony and information table for those interested.

Bias sees value in such outreach efforts, as neither she nor her family had considered organ donation prior to her illness.

"I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for organ donation," she said. "If it was a member of your family, it becomes personal. Think of it that way."

Monday's event kicked off National Donate Life Month in the region. It was hosted in cooperation with Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, a group whose jurisdiction also covers Cabell and Wayne counties. Its representatives, Joy Adkins and Chance Martin, said such activities promote awareness and present an opportunity to clear up misconceptions.

For instance, Martin said becoming a donor will have no impact on the quality of health care he or she receives. He explained quality care is a necessity to preserve organs should a need for donation arise.

Estimates are one donor can save up to eight lives. There are currently more than 117,000 people waiting on a life-saving transplant, according to a news release circulated at Monday's event.

Participation in Cabell County is consistent with West Virginia's average of 34 percent. The state average ranks in the bottom half nationwide, Adkins said. She explained many hesitate to consider donation because doing so is to contemplate an end-of-life decision.

"It's a sensitive subject for lots of people," she said. "We encourage people to think about donation from how one would feel if you found out you or your loved one needed a heart transplant or a liver transplant. That donation could help save your life."

Samantha Ash, director of critical care at St. Mary's, said organ donation can be a gift to the donor's family, as it gives them a glimpse of joy at an otherwise not so happy time.

"It can be an ounce of hope," she said. "It's almost a gift for the people who are losing their loved one too because they're able to see them go on. They get reward out of that ... It's a way for that person to kind of live on."

Adkins' group will continue spreading its message throughout April. That includes additional stops in Huntington, Ashland and Pikeville, Ky.

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD.

For more information ...

Those interested in more information about organ donation should call Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates at 304-733-5775. Information also is available at websites http://www.donatelife.net and http://www.kyorgandonor.org.

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