Local residents share organ donation stories

St. Joseph’s Hospital hosts National Donate Life Month event

The Inter-Mountain photo by Amanda Hayes From left are Sandra Thorne, R.N. and CORE Advisory Council Representative for St. Joseph’s Hospital; Joe Malcom; Mickey Corley; Jeremy Zeiders, patient services liaison with CORE; and Skip Gjolberg, administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital

BUCKHANNON — Mickey Corley, of Elkins, hopes to be a heart transplant recipient. Twenty years removed from his liver transplant surgery, Upshur County resident Joe Malcolm got a second chance at life through one family’s life-giving donation of their son’s liver.

Their stories were shared Wednesday during a National Donate Life Month celebration at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Jeremy Zeiders, professional services liaison and donor family support coordinator with Center for Organ Recovery and Education, said, “While our efforts together are ongoing and year-round, National Donate Life Month is a time when we take the time to make a collective push to encourage everyone to make a pledge for life and to register to be a donor.”

Each year, Donate Life America develops a theme and this year’s theme is based on a bicycle with the slogan, “Life is a beautiful ride.”

“Bicycles come in all shapes and sizes but each is created with the same pieces essential for supporting the rider and converting their energy into motion,” he said. “Likewise, organ, tissue and cornea donation offer many ways to give support and hope to patients who are waiting a second chance at life. Like the donation and transplant journey, a bicycle serves as a symbol of progress, of renewal and of the moving circle of life. It would not be possible for CORE to continue this circle of life without your help and support.”

Malcolm was diagnosed with non-alcoholic cirrhosis in 1996.

“Before I left Ruby, they told me I was a good candidate for a liver transplant,” he said. “In June of 1997, I got put on the transplant list. Four hundred and 39 days later, I got my transplant. I was in the hospital for 72 days.”

For Malcolm, a new liver was made possible through a 22-year-old man had a conversation with his mother two months before he died in an accident in which he told her he wanted to be an organ donor.

Malcolm met his donor’s family in 2010.

“[The mother] looked me straight in the eye and said, “‘If he hadn’t told me that, I would never have done it,'” Malcolm said.

The donor’s father requested that the liver not leave Ohio State and Malcolm was in the hospital there with pneumonia awaiting a transplant and matched up to receive the liver.

“That’s the only reason I am here today because of his communication with his mother before his accident and then different things throughout the situation,” he said. “I’m 20 years, eight months and eight days with my transplant. I got to see my son graduate college. I got to see him get married.

“For years, before they priced me out, I got to go to WVU football and basketball games with him. That was our time.”

Joe and his wife Debbie keep a picture of Scott, the organ donor, in their home and wore his picture at the event to honor him.

“Be an organ donor; be a lifesaver,” he said.

Corley’s heart problems began in 1997 with his first heart attack. Six months ago he received a LVAD heart pump which has improved his heart function and hopes after passing two medical tests that he can be placed on the heart transplant list.

Zeiders said that Donate Life Month is the foundation of CORE’s awareness efforts.

More than 115,000 patients in the country are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant. Zeiders commended St. Joseph’s Hospital on their work to support donors.

Last year, the hospital’s donor efforts gave the gift of sight to six cornea recipients and enhanced the lives of nearly 225 others through tissue transplantation.

To learn more about becoming a donor and CORE, visit www.core.org.

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