Living donors and families join together in celebration of life

October 27, 2012|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Transplant organ recipient Aleta Irving tells her story Saturday at an organ donor symposium at Boonsboro American Legion.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

BOONSBORO, Md. — They received “the nightmare call of all parents,” Charles Hutchinson said.

He and his wife, Cindy Hutchinson, received news at their Boonsboro home on Thanksgiving morning three years ago that their son, C.J., then 20, a U.S. Marine stationed in Twentynine Palms, Calif., had been in a car accident. Police assume he fell asleep at the wheel.

The couple needed to get to the hospital there “ASAP.” After they arrived, a scan of C.J.’s brain showed no activity. Hospital staff asked if the family was interested in organ donation.

“We just did not know what to do,” Hutchinson said. “After much discussion, we knew that we had to say yes. In life, C.J. was a giving person. He would want to give someone an opportunity to have a better life.”

Hutchinson was among the speakers Saturday at an Organ Donation Symposium sponsored by the Boonsboro and Sharpsburg Lions Clubs at Boonsboro American Legion Post 10.

Marie Oyster, a member of the Boonsboro club, said the two groups joined together to host the symposium in honor of Make a Difference Day. The annual community service effort was created by USA Weekend magazine to take place the fourth Saturday of each October.

Boonsboro club member Nancy Itnyre suggested an organ donation symposium. Itnyre was inspired by her nephew, Christopher Nalley of Richmond, Va., an organ donation recipient.

About 50 people attended the event, including representatives from organizations Donate Life, which promotes donor education, and The Living Legacy Foundation, which facilitates donation and supports donor families.

Clint Burns, program coordinator for organ and tissue donation at Johns Hopkins Hospital, is a critical-care nurse and a liver transplant recipient.

“I never cheat a day because of the second chance I got. I don’t know how you can possibly make a bigger difference in a person’s life than to give them a second chance,” he said.

Burns said he hopes grass-roots movements such as the symposium will serve to dispel myths about organ donation, including misconceptions that donors can’t have open casket funerals and that doctors “won’t do enough” to save potential donors.

Tom and Sonja Hoover of Clear Spring spoke of their experience with organ donation. Their son, Quinn Hoover, was 17 when he died of injuries sustained in a car accident last March. Tom Hoover called Heidi, a representative of The Living Legacy Foundation “an angel,” and said the support his family continues to receive from the organization is “unbelievable.”

“There was caring and personal attention, explanation of every test. It made it easier,” Hoover said. “Until Quinn’s very end, he was treated with respect.”

Sonja Hoover said the family will travel to Pasadena, Calif., for the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day. Quinn’s picture will grace the Donate Life float representing Maryland.

Lisa Koontz, 45, of Williamsport, was a living donor, giving a kidney to her friend, Aleta Irving, 62, of Hagerstown. Koontz said she felt deeply for Irving as she went through a disappointing process trying to find a match for a donor.

“When I realized that with organ donation you have the ability to change a person’s life forever, that’s where I sprung to action,” Koontz said.

Leslie Cochran, 49, of Boonsboro, who received a kidney from her childhood friend, Marilee Kerns, also of Boonsboro, and Mike Butler, 49, a kidney and pancreas recipient, also addressed the crowd.

Butler said his transplants allowed him to watch his son graduate from high school and college and to be present for his wedding.

Following his transplants, Butler became active in the Transplant Games of America, a multisport festival celebrating the lives of donors and recipients. Butler, who competes in track and field events and in team volleyball, qualified for the 2013 World Transplant Games in Durban, South Africa.

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