Calcasieu Coroner Dr.Terry Welke receives national award for organ procurement efforts

Calcasieu Coroner Dr.Terry Welke receives national award for organ procurement efforts

Calcasieu Coroner Dr. Terry Welke has been qualified as an expert in forensic pathology for more than 350 court cases.  And he's performed autopsies for at least 14 parishes in Louisiana.

Yet he's receiving a national award - for something people might not expect: promoting life.

People likely think of Welke as forensic pathologist and coroner central to death investigations throughout the region.

Yet, Welke is recognized as a leader when it comes to procuring organs and tissue for donation. But he  gives credit to others, especially the families who donate their loved ones organs.

"I really don't deserve it to be honest with you. The people that are around me deserve it far more than I do," he said.

But Chief Investigator Charlie Hunter says people don't realize how deserving Welke is of  the award.

"They don't realize the time and dedication, effort that Dr.Welke has put in during the course of his 25 plus years to save countless lives with organ donation and by changing the way he does things and adapting the way he does things on a daily basis to make sure that life still goes on after death," said Hunter.

And when it comes to organ donation, Welke's saying is "Life Trumps Death Every Time."

"I feel badly that people who have died that have organs that are usable are basically wasting them.  They're very valuable to someone else," said Welke.

And he explains that usable tissue can be taken from those who weren't necessarily on life support, all the way up to when their tissues are procured.

Welke is also recognized for his efforts to reduce infant deaths through the Safe Sleep Campaign and preserving the option of organ donation in  military and inmate deaths.

"One life or one death, you might say, can actually save about eight lives and improve or even increase other people's lives, another 50 people," said Welke.

"I realize people always think, coroners, ugh, it's always dead, but that's not true.  We take care of the dead but we care more for the living," he said.

In fact, this man who spends so much time around death says he cherishes life to the fullest.

"I think life is really exciting. If anybody wants my body they can have whatever they want.  IF I can do something to save somebody's life, I am going to do it," he said.

Welke urges people to act so they too can potentially give the gift of a lifetime, whether it's registering with the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency or simply designating on ones drive's license, one's wish to be a donor.  Such designation can be vetoed by family members after a person dies, so individuals who wish to donate are urged to make their wishes known to family members and/or register with LOPA. The national award is from the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations.  A ceremony will be held later this year.

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