By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — — Secretary of State Jesse White presented Good Samaritan Regional Health Center with a special plaque Tuesday in recognition of the facility's “outstanding” commitment to organ and tissue donation.
In the last five years, Good Samaritan has nearly doubled the number of people who consent to becoming tissue donors, states a news release from White's office.
Last year alone, more than 500 people were helped by donations originating from the hospital, officials said.
“When an institution will go beyond the call of duty or go the extra mile, I think that they should be recognized for their efforts,” White said. “And so I brought with me a plaque that really said, in essence, to Good Samaritan, 'thanks for a job well done.'”
Good Samaritan officials received the award during a news conference held Tuesday in the hospital's conference room.
The event featured presentations by White; Good Samaritan President Mike Warren; Tammy Doyle, donor program specialist for Mid-America Transplant Services; and several donor family members.
“Organ/tissue donation is an important service and we at Good Samaritan will continually strive to provide compassionate and competent care while respecting the dignity of all,” Warren said. “I credit our success to the donors and their families and to our dedicated employees who make these things happen.”
Donor family members John and Betty Riley of Dix, and Sheila Thompson of Mt. Vernon, spoke about their losses and the positive impact organ donation can have on the healing process.
The Rileys lost their 10-year-old son, John IV, in a 4-wheeler accident in 1994.
After their son was pronounced brain dead at a St. Louis hospital, the Rileys were approached about the possibility of organ donation. They eventually decided in favor of the notion, believing that's what John IV would have wanted.
Their son's heart, liver and both kidneys were donated and the Rileys even befriended some of the recipients.
“It serves as a healing for us because we can see John living on in somebody else,” John Riley said. “It was tough and I think that's what got us through it.”
Thompson lost her 20-month-old niece three years ago in a vehicle accident. Her niece's heart, kidneys and liver were donated to others.
“The organ donation saves lives,” Thompson said. “Saving lives is the best gift in the world. Of course the loss is there, the pain is there, but it seemed like it is a healing process for the families of the organ donors.”
In Illinois, more than 5.5 million people are on the Organ/Tissue Donor Registry. However, about 300 people die every year waiting for a life-saving donation, the news release states. There are now more than 5,000 people waiting for an organ in Illinois, the release states.
“Organ and tissue donation helps in many ways that people may not think about,” Doyle said. “It encompasses heart, lungs, livers and kidneys, as well as eyes, skin, heart valves and bone. Organ donors can save the lives of up to eight recipients.”
To White, it takes “a lot of heroes” to make these donations happen.
“There are a lot of heroes here at this institution in the form of the doctors, nurses, the administration and the people who said, 'yes I'd like to have my organs used for transplantation purposes,'” White said. “This community should be applauded for their giving and caring spirit and for making a difference in the lives of those in need.”
Illinois residents can join the Organ/Tissue Donor Registry by visiting LifeGoesOn.com, calling 800-210-2106, or visiting their local Driver Services facility.