Wednesday morning, La Porte Hospital held its annual Flag Raising Ceremony. The hospital worked with VisionFirst Indiana Lions Eye Bank to conduct the ceremony in honor of National Donate Life Month.
“I’d like to thank La Porte Hospital for partnering with us to celebrate National Donate Life Month,” said Michael Henderson, Professional Services Coordinator at VisionFirst. “April is a time to celebrate those who have received donations, recognized those who continue to wait, honor donors and donor families, and to thank registered donors for giving hope.”
More than 114,000 people are on the waiting list for organs - enough to fill Lucas Oil Stadium twice! In 2018, more than 36,000 transplants were performed, a 5% increase from 2017. Each individual has the life-saving potential within them to help continue to bring this number up, and decrease the size of the waiting list one donation at a time.
Those who have been lucky enough to receive donations do not take this gift lightly and understand the magnitude of their blessing. Doris Mitchel, a two-time transplant recipient, shared her story and emphasized the inimitable connection between donors and recipients.
“I am just so thankful for all the donor families and their selflessness,” Mitchel said. “They don’t have to do this, but they saves lives when they make the choice to be a donor.”
Since becoming a transplant recipient, Mitchel’s mission has been to pay it forward in any way she can.
Another recipient, Kathy Lewis, shared her story with the crowd, as well.
“It feels good to be a recipient, but so bad at the same time because my new chance at life is their great loss,” Lewis said. “I just want to be able to give back and spread awareness in any way I can, though I know there is no way to truly repay what these donors have given.”
The cycle of organ donation is undoubtedly bittersweet, but the loved ones of donors often find peace in knowing that their loved one’s sacrifice allowed for someone else's new beginning. Lewis shared a story of the healing process of one man she met at The Transplant Games of America, a multi-sport festival that brings donors and recipients together to promote the need for organ, eye, and tissue donation.
“At the games, I spoke to a father whose young son had been an organ donor,” Lewis said. “He told me that he had tried countless methods for dealing with his grief, and as a last resort he came to the games. When he saw all the organ recipients there and what they were all doing, he could finally start to heal from that.”
After Mitchel and Lewis shared their testimonies, the group observed a moment of silence as the Donate Life flag was hoisted to the top of the flag pole. This flag raising was just one of many such ceremonies taking place throughout The Region. Each one is an opportunity for community members and hospital staff to honor everyone involved in the process, as well as register to become donors.
“Every single hospital in the Northwest Indiana area will fly the Donate Life Indiana flag for the full month of April,” said Amanda Kuczmanski, Professional Services Coordinator for Indiana Donor Network.
While the flag will remain raised for the duration of National Donate Life Month, it can also be seen waving in the wind throughout the rest of the year.
“If you see a Donate Life flag flying at a hospital outside the month of April, it symbolizes that there is an organ donor currently at the hospital,” Kuczmanski said. “The flag honors donors and their families for their heroic, lifesaving donation. Once recovery occurs, the donor family receives the flag to take home.”
All are encouraged to keep everyone involved in the organ donation process in their thoughts always, but especially during the month of April.
For more information about the life-changing results of organ donation or how to become a donor yourself, visit www.visionfirst.org. For more information about La Porte Hospital and all its services, visit laportehealth.com.