Ceremony celebrates ‘gifts of life’

Published 5:00 am Friday, April 26, 2002

The remarkable gift of life was recognized in a special wayThursday during a ceremony in front of Brookhaven High School.

A “Tree of Life” was planted and dedicated in observation ofNational Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week by the MississippiOrgan Recovery Agency (MORA).

“We want to dedicate this Tree of Life to all the donors, donorfamilies and transplant recipients,” said Brookhaven residentGlenda Smith, whose husband, Jimmy, is a liver transplantrecipient.

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The Smiths are just one of the many families in the area thathave been affected by organ donation.

Eunice Brabham and Becky Fisk, the recipient of Brabham’skidney, were also on hand for the ceremony.

“I’m living proof that you can do something good while you’restill alive. It’s been the most awesome, life-altering, wonderfulexperience,” said Brabham to the group gathered around the Live Oaktree donated by a local landscape company.

She and many other organ donors and recipients tied greenribbons on the tree to remember the great sacrifices people make tohelp others in need.

Dirk Porter of Bogue Chitto talked to the group about how he wasin need of a liver for five years. He received the transplant inOctober 2001 and has taken a new approach to life.

“It has made a world of difference in my life. I’m a brand newperson,” he said.

Porter pointed out that almost 80,000 people in America arestill waiting for the day when they will have a second chance atlife.

“There’s a lot of sick people just around in our area… thatneed organs,” said Porter.

One of those people is Jimmy Lynch, who came to the ceremonywith his wife, Rhonda. They have been waiting on a life-changingphone call for six months.

Lynch has had diabetes for over 20 years, and the disease hastaken a toll on his body, leaving him in need a kidney and pancreastransplant.

“We just hope every day that we will get the call saying there’sa donor,” he said.

Chuck Ivey, whose son became an organ donor when he died inOctober 2000, encouraged people to talk with their loved ones aboutorgan donation. He explained how organ donors must inform theirfamilies of their wishes because family members have the finaldecision.

Ivey, who was at the ceremony with his wife Jullia, shared withthe group the reward they had received knowing others would be ableto live out their lives because of organ donation.

“Other than the son that Justin left behind, that’s been oursource of comfort, knowing something good came out of thattragedy,” said Ivey.

James Laird told of how one generous family’s decision broughtlife to his son, Jonathan, in 1992. Jonathan received a livertransplant as an infant and is able to live the life of a normal,healthy boy today.

King’s Daughters Medical Center chief executive officer PhillipGrady informed the group that hopefully, with a new educationprogram started at the hospital, more people would be able toreceive the gift of life.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith also talked with several people about herefforts to educate people about the importance of tissue and organdonation.

She was the chairman of a bill that passed recently requiringorgan donation education to be included in driver’s educationcourses.

Following the ceremony at BHS, the group watched an informativevideo on organ donation in the State Room. The 15-minute video,called “No Greater Love,” was narrated by Angela Lansbury. It willair on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) during the next fewmonths.