Honoring the heroes of organ donation

By Lee Peck - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - For the second consecutive year, Lake Charles Memorial Hospital was awarded the Organ Donation National Medal of honor from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its success raising organ donation rates. One of only six hospitals in Louisiana to earn the award, Memorial was recognized for collaborating with its partner, Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA), in an effort to achieve the national goal of converting at least 75 percent of eligible deaths into actual organ donors. Presenting the award Saturday was one of the youngest recipients one-year-old Brandon Chance and his mom Lauren. Brandon received a heart transplant last September.

"We found out he needed a heart in August of 2009 and we started praying for that family because we knew what that meant," explained Lauren. "To get an organ such as a heart - the doctors told us it was based on weight... So it doesn't take a genius to know that someone was going to lose their baby so I could take mine home again. And that is why we are here, to honor his donor family."

Of the more than 20 families in attendance - all had stories to share. Stories of how their loved ones died and the selfless sacrifice made in death. The day was about honoring those heroes.

"He laughed and said if something happens to me... Somebody might as well use these parts because when I get to heaven I'm not going to need any of them," recalled Rhonda Suchanek.

Suchanek's 14-year-old son, Tony, died in an ATV accident four months ago.

"His firm belief in life was live for the moment not for the day and do it to the extreme - and he did faithfully," said Suchanek. "We are happy today that he and the other organ donors are being recognized for what they gave to help others. It makes us very proud."

In death Tony gave the gift of life - donating his cornea, bone marrow and tissue. Most donor families never meet the recipients. Mr. Cormier received a heart transplant 19 years ago and had an emotional message for all the families.  - "On behalf of recipients everywhere thank you. Thank you very much because if it wasn't for you kind, loving caring people - I wouldn't be here today."

Over time, others have worked through their grief and now volunteer with LOPA. During the past two years LOPA there were 312 organ donors in Louisiana hospitals and 806 transplants. To date there are 105,070 Americans on the national waiting list.

"We need to continue to raise awareness because we need to let people know that there is good things... And there is life after death," said LOPA Volunteer Linda Breaux.

If you need living proof, just look at little Brandon - He's just one of the reasons they're raising their flag to encourage others to donate life, but at the same time never forgetting their angels in heaven who made it all possible.

For more on how you can help LOPA click here.

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