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Monday, April 5, 2021

The Gift of Life


Organ donations can help others with health problems

Wytonia and Joey McBride made a life-giving decision after their son was the victim of a drive-by shooting (right).

Awall in the Minden home of Wytonia and Joey McBride could be a wall found in the house of any parents proud of a son or daughter. It is the first thing you see when you enter the modest gray-brick home on a quiet residential street in the Webster Parish community. A framed photo collage of Joshua McBride, a charcoal drawing of Joshua and his daughters, a pen-and-ink rendering of Joshua as a young man, his high school basketball jersey and an “in memoriam” tribute.

Joshua, the victim of a drive-by shooting in DeRidder on Feb. 3, 2019, died from his injuries Aug. 19, 2019. The wall keeps the memory of Wytonia and Joey McBride’s youngest child alive while five of his organs – his pancreas, liver, intestines and kidneys – keep three different people who needed a transplant alive.

April is National Donate Life Month. It is an opportunity each year to encourage people to register as an organ, tissue and eye donor and share the importance of becoming a registered donor, says Ashley Davis, donation services coordinator for Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA).

While Joshua was not a registered donor, his father had had a kidney transplant in 2012 at the John C. McDonald Regional Transplant Center at Willis-Knighton Medical Center. His mother recognized the importance of organ donation when, as a high schooler, health problems put her at risk of needing a kidney transplant as well.

“So when we were asked about donating Joshua’s organs, I didn’t hesitate,” Wytonia McBride says. Her husband, however, was reluctant.

“He looked at me and said he didn’t want to do it. He was suffering. We had been through enough, and he didn’t want Joshua to go through anymore,” Wytonia McBride remembers. “He was grieving. He was only thinking about Joshua. I reminded him he had had a kidney transplant, and he was living today because of a child.”

“There’s no doubt whatsoever. You’re right. I am living today because of organ donation. Why not be a blessing to someone else?” Joey McBride told his wife.

And with that decision, the McBrides and their son, Joshua, gave life to someone who needed a pancreas/liver/intestines transplant and two others who needed kidney transplants.

“Each day, 22 people will die waiting for a life-saving organ,” says Yvette Sanchez, transplant center administrator. “There are almost 110,000 people on the national waiting list and more than 2,000 people on the waiting list in Louisiana.”

One organ donor could potentially save up to eight lives. LOPA can recover the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and small intestines. Tissue donation could enhance the lives of more than 50 people.

The regional transplant center is the only transplant center in north Louisiana. More than 2,000 organ transplants have been performed since the program’s inception in 1977.

Misconceptions and myths about organ donation keep many people from registering to be an organ donors, says Ashley Davis, LOPA donation services coordinator. “Not knowing the facts about donation makes them nervous. That is why Donate Life Month and educating the public is so important.”

For example, donation only occurs after every effort has been made to save a patient’s life at the hospital. LOPA is only contacted at the appropriate time when potential donors are screened. There is no cost for donation, and the donor is prepared with the utmost dignity and respect. Donation does not prevent an open casket if that is the family’s wishes.

“Donation is a unique opportunity and a chance for someone’s legacy to continue on even after death,” Davis says. “It’s a gift for not only those who received the lifesaving organs and tissue but a gift to their families as well. During such tragic events, there is still hope and goodness that come from those who choose to be registered donors. Our donors are the true heroes who have given the gift of life to those recipients.”

Willis-Knighton Health System, in partnership with LOPA, will fly Donate Life flags during April at each of its acute care hospitals in observance of National Donate Life Month. Names of recent organ donors will be added to the John C. McDonald Regional Transplant Center Wall of Heroes at Willis-Knighton Medical Center. The wall honors the “heroes of transplant,” those who gave the gift of life through the selfless act of organ donation. On Apr. 16, National Donate Life Blue & Green Day, the transplant center encourages the public to wear blue and green to promote the importance of registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor.

To learn more about the transplantation services at the WK John C. McDonald Regional Transplant Center, go to www.wkhs.com/transplant To learn more about donation and to register as a donor, visit lopa.org To view the honor walk for Joshua McBride, the first honor walk in Louisiana, according to LOPA, go to www.wkhs.com/transplant/honor-walk

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