“It blew my mind because I never thought that one that I had given life would be giving me life,” he said Monday before going on air to talk about the importance of organ donation at WOOW-AM, a gospel and talk station in downtown Greenville.
Locks said he registered as a donor with the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles 20 years ago, never expecting to be in need of an organ transplant himself.
The three-hour Radio-Thon event where donors and recipients spoke to disc jockey Mike Early was part of National Minority Donor Awareness Day.
It was hosted by Carolina Donor Services, a federally designated, not-for-profit organization that works with the family's of the recently deceased at hospitals to facilitate the donation process.
While kidney transplants are handled by various agencies because they are donations made by the living, Carolina Donor Services deals strictly with donations of eyes, organs, and tissue made after death. Tissue donations are not included as division of motor vehicle donations.
At nearly 52 percent, blacks make up the majority of North Carolinians waiting for an organ transplant, but minorities comprise only 25 percent of donors, according to Carolina Donor Services.
That discrepancy is harmful, because it's easier to match organ and tissue donors to recipients from the same race, said Dawn Hall, a spokeswoman for Carolina Donor Services.
“The chances that they will be a match is greater with people of the same ethnicities,” she said.
There are more than 32,000 blacks on waiting lists for organ transplants, and nearly 2,000 of those are in North Carolina
While on the air, Locks, of Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church, said he needed a transplant because complications from diabetes damaged his kidneys. He received dialysis treatment for almost two years before his 2009 transplant.
Locks said transplant recipients are “blessed by these sacrifices” made by donors.
And he called upon spiritual leaders to educate their congregations on the need for minority donors.
“It's a numerical embarrassment,” Locks said of the low number of minority donors when compared to the number of minorities needing transplants.
Greenville resident Arlette Whitaker is a dialysis nurse who is receiving dialysis because chemotherapy as a child damaged her kidneys. She made a personal plea for a kidney donor while on the air.
“Not many African-Americans donate,” she said. And she encouraged those who were nervous about the process to ask questions of health care professionals.
Donating a kidney won't have adverse health effects, and donors are screened in advance, she said.
“They're not going to let you donate a kidney and put yourself at risk,” Whitaker said.
Bishop Ralph Love, a member of the Pitt County Board of Education, spoke about the kidney donation he received from his son this year.
“For me, it's made a difference. It's extended my life,” he said.
“I encourage those of you that can, to be like my son and donate a kidney,” Love said.
Hall said that agreeing to become a donor by designating it on a driver's license or signing up at www.donatelifenc.org will not affect the medical care individuals receive when they fall ill.
Families that have donated a family member's organs often feel they've given them a legacy, she said.
“We have families that come back to us and say that the donation was the one bright light that came from an otherwise dismal time in their life.”