By DAVID GREEN
Geneva Ballard had never thought much about organ donations until her 18-year-old son, Justin Hoffman, lay in a hospital bed barely clinging to life following an automobile accident.
She talked it over with her other son, Jeremy, and the decision was made. If Justin didn’t pull through, his shortened life would help extend others.
A year later, Geneva sees that decision as the best thing to come out of an unfortunate situation. If she had to face it again, she would certainly make the same choice a second time.
That’s what she told Tracy Kropp and Nancy Ellis of Life Connection of Ohio when they were in Morenci Saturday. Geneva invited the organ donation facilitators to set up a booth Saturday at a “celebration of life” in honor of Justin on the anniversary of his death.
The two representatives from Life Connection were delighted to hear Geneva’s positive response.
“I wanted some good to come out of a tragic time,” Geneva said.
There’s a lot of good to think about.
Two kidneys, a liver, a pancreas and small intestine were used from Justin, and 69 tissue grafts were taken, allowing patients to make use of his corneas, skin, cartilage, etc. So far, 35 of the various tissue grafts have been used, but they can be stored for five years. In total, dozens of people will have benefitted from Geneva’s decision.
She received a four-page letter from one organ recipient who expressed her thanks and told how she often thinks of Justin. She’s had contact several times with another recipient.
“That’s really rare,” Life Connection’s Nancy Ellis said. Most recipients don’t make the effort to contact a donor’s family.
Those contacts helped Geneva through some tough times. Occasionally, commemorative medallions, certificates and other items arrived in the mail from Life Connection or other sources to remind Geneva of the good that came from her family’s misfortune.
“In some of my darkest days, a medallion would arrive,” she said, reminding her of a gift of love passed on to others.
Variety of Applications
Organ and tissue donations from a healthy body can save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people.
Kidney and liver transplants are the most common procedures, but there are also people in need of other organs, including the pancreas, heart, lung and intestine.
A range of tissues can also be used to aid others, including bones, corneas, heart valves, skin, tendons and veins.
The use of donated tissue for transplantation is described by Donate Life Ohio as “one of the most remarkable success stories in the history of medicine.”
A rib can be used in the repair of a jaw bone to restore facial appearance. The femur (leg) can be used in spinal repair to prevent bone collapse.
Achilles’ tendon can be used in rotator cuff repair. Connective tissue from the thigh can aid in tendon repair and restore a person’s independence.
The list of benefits is large and growing, however, the availability of donations lags far behind the need.
As of Aug. 1, there were 2,495 Michigan residents in need of a kidney transplant and nearly as many in Ohio. In Michigan, 298 people were in need of liver, a number that increases to 372 in Ohio.
The total number of patients awaiting transplants of various organs stands at 3,016 in Michigan and 2,873 in Ohio. Nationally, a new name is added to the waiting list about every 10 minutes.
Life Connection emphasizes five important facts that might concern potential donors:
• Donation does not restrict a normal funeral service;
• Medical treatment will not suffer if a person is listed as a donor;
• Families will neither pay nor receive payment for donations;
• Most major religions support donation and many openly encourage it.
• There are no firm age limits to serve as a donor. Medical staff evaluate each potential donor for suitability.
For additional information, call Gift of Life Michigan at 800/482-4811 or Life Connection of Ohio at 800/262-5443.