Source: Montgomery Advertiser
To honor those who are living today thanks to organ donation -- and to pay tribute to those donors and their families who selflessly gave so much so that others might live -- a special display is open to the public at the state Capitol.
Eight of the Alabama donor family quilts and four of the national donor family quilt panels -- all lovingly handmade to pay tribute to the gift of life -- are on display in the Old Supreme Court Library through April 4.
The quilts are a visual representation of National Donate Life Month, which celebrates the more than 26,000 successful organ transplants in the U.S. last year. But 3,550 Alabamians continue to wait for a life-saving organ transplant, according to information from the Alabama Organ Center.
AOC representatives, medical professionals, donor family members and tissue and organ recipients were on hand Tuesday to see Gov. Robert Bentley sign a proclamation for National Donate Life Month, and to take a look at the quilts and quilt panels. Each one tells a unique, and often emotional, story.
"Some of them tell the whole life of a person," said Angela Haffarnan, procurement transplant coordinator with the AOC.
Pamela Carpenter's quilt panel does just that.
She created it in memory of her husband, who donated his kidneys, liver and pancreas to needy recipients after he had an aneurysm on Father's Day 2009.
Her voice overflowing with emotion, Carpenter talked through her grief as she explained the symbols on the quilt panel.
"It's hard to pull 50 years into a square," she said, but she was able to incorporate symbols that reflected her husband's lifetime loves of family, church, hunting, Auburn football and time with friends.
The family had talked about organ donation before the aneurysm, and Carpenter was certain that's what he would want to be done.
"I think it's one of the most Christian things to do," Carpenter said.
Also on hand Tuesday was Carter Lloyd, a junior at St. James School in Montgomery. Carter is 15 years post-transplant, and is enjoying the active life of a teenager.
He was not quite 2 years old when a benign pseudotumor cut off the flow of blood and bile to his liver, which ultimately led to liver failure. He had a liver transplant at 21 months old.
Now, he's active in his youth group, marches in the band and plays tennis. He's also participated in the U.S. Transplant Games, which are held every two years at different sites around the country.
He's also active with Camp Bridges, which promotes health and quality of life for children who have had or need an organ transplant. The camp is held in the summer at Children's Harbor on Lake Martin.
Both the recipients and the donors hope the quilts will prompt families to discuss organ donation. They realize it is not an easy conversation.
"I was thinking this morning, this is not an event -- you don't plan to donate an organ today," Carpenter said. "But we encourage people to talk about it long before they're forced to make a decision."