By Carl Kieke | Abilene Reporter News
The event was a celebration of successful transplant surgeries through the years and a chance to recognize organ and tissue donors and recipients. The site of the event, sponsored by the Transplant Services Center of Dallas and Lions Club District 2-E1 Tissue and Eye Bank, alternates each year between Abilene and Wichita Falls.
Hughes lost her father, Earl Hughes Jr., to the effects of a stroke during March 2010. The couple had previously discussed organ donation if one of them died.
“It helps a lot to know,” she said, saying doctors were able to harvest his corneas, long bones and heart valves. “It’s something he would have done.”
Maikranz is on the opposite end. He received new corneas from unknown donors in August and December of 2010. Already his vision, which he was in danger of losing, is 20/30, with doctors saying it could improve even more in time.
“I drive Engine 8 (for the Abilene Fire Department),” he said. “I’ve been doing it for 21 years, and now I’ll be able to do it for many more years.”
Hughes and her family expressed no regrets with their decision. Each also voiced a desire to meet their donor/recipient, though neither has taken steps to do so.
“It helps a lot to know (that someone else was helped),” Hughes said. “You still gotta go on. If you can’t, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it (donate tissues).”
“It makes you realize how important this is — how many people you can help,” Maikranz said. “If they only knew how important my vision is to my career and my ability to help others.”
Contacting a donor/recipient can be done, but isn’t necessarily encouraged, said Ellen Heck, founding director of the Transplant Services Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“If they write to us, we will contact the other party and see if they want to hear from them,” she said. “But we encourage them to keep it somewhat anonymous and just share their stories. What we want through transplantation is for these individuals to be able to get on with their lives.”
Heck said the center facilitates from 9,000 to 10,000 transplants each year, most within their service area, but also available to other parts of the state and nation.
The most important part of the equation is donors, Heck said. The easiest way to become a tissue donor is to register with the Glenda Dawson Registry, which can be found at www.donatelifetexas.org.
Those registered receive wallet cards to carry with them. When the card is found, medical staff check to be sure the person is still registered as a donor. Still, Heck said it is important that family members also know about the donor’s wishes.
“It’s so important that your family know what you want so it doesn’t come as a surprise to them at a very difficult time in their lives as well.”
There is more demand than there is supply for tissue donations, which can be remedied only if more people are willing to be donors.
“The most important part is getting word out to the community to make people aware of what needs to be done,” Heck said. “How they can help when these precious tissues and organs are no longer of any use to them, how they can help someone else to live a productive life.
“Without donations, no transplantation can take place.”