Community Heroes is a special extension of This Thing Called Life’s podcast. In this series we talk to community leaders, share important information about organ and tissue donation, and honor those who have been instrumental in saving lives through the gift of donation.
During this episode of This Thing Called Life podcast, host Andi Johnson speaks with Donna Jones Baker who recently received the gift of life through the donation of a kidney and a heart. Donna has learned to appreciate organ donation and its ability to help save so many lives!
- February 14th is National Donor Day, a day to honor all those who have been affected by organ donation.
- Donna was originally born in Paducah, Kentucky and went to Murray State University.
- After getting married, Donna lived in Baltimore for 22 years before moving to Cincinnati to become the CEO of The Urban League.
- Had it not been for the heart attack that she suffered, Donna believes she would still be at The Urban League.
- Initially, Donna received a Z-pack for what she thought to be a cold or a flu.
- Donna was able to make it to the hospital after suffering from a heart attack where she was equipped with an LVAD.
- Doctors wanted to give Donna a heart transplant, but couldn’t because they discovered cancer on her kidney.
- After doctors removed her kidney, Donna was placed on the transplant list for a new heart and kidney.
- According to the numbers, people of color suffer disproportionately from the effects of COVID.
- The months between her kidney removal and kidney/heart transplant were very scary for Donna.
- Doctors feared that Donna’s remaining kidney would not be able to support her and that she would have to go on dialysis.
- The same doctor that fixed Donna’s LVAD performed her heart and kidney transplant.
- Donna had to be careful with the medications that she took because the heart and kidney don’t want the same things.
- With the help of her husband, Greg, Donna was able to make it through a transplant during a pandemic.
- Donna advises those going through a similar situation to try not to think about it all the time.
- The gifts of life and grandchildren keep Donna grateful for every day that she opens her eyes.
- Through the pandemic, Donna has remained in touch with her children and grandchildren via Zoom.
- Working in organ donation is a tough job, but one that saves many lives.
- Donna hopes to schedule a trip to Baltimore to visit her grandchildren once the pandemic is over.
- Right now, there are over 100,000 people in need of a life-saving transplant surgery.
3 Key Points:
- After initially thinking she had the flu, Donna agreed to host a round table event on Friday the 13th. That following Sunday, she suffered a heart attack from Giant Cell Myocarditis.
- Many African Americans decline to become organ donors out of a fear that if someone of note needed an organ, doctors would take it from them without consideration for their lives.
- To stay in touch and grow with her family members, Donna has started a Sunday night Zoom Bible study.
During this episode of This Thing Called Life, host Andi Johnson speaks with Betsy Morgan, the Donation Support Services Trainer at LifeCenter. Betsy trains members of her team on how to approach families for donation interviews while remaining supportive in their time of need.
- Betsy began at LifeCenter as a Donation Support Specialist Coordinator back in 2015.
- In her role, Betsy and her team approach and support families during the organ donation process.
- Before coming to LifeCenter, Betsy was a nurse manager, something she attributes to her love of helping people.
- Betsy loves her job because she gets to see the good things in life, even though the rest of the world is chaotic.
- Sometimes the right thing to say is to say nothing; just showing support is something that people need.
- You can decide the right thing to say to a donor family based on where they are in their donation journey.
- People just want to be heard sometimes, so it can be as simple as picking up the phone and listening.
- With her previous work experience, Betsy knew about organs but didn’t know there were so many ways to donate.
- As technology and healthcare methods change and move forward, there are more and more ways to help those who need donation.
- The process of interviewing the families is a long and difficult one, but Betsy focuses on all the good that the gifts will do.
- Answering the interview questions can be a very difficult and arduous process but is necessary to ensure safe donations.
- During a past Donor Family Ceremony, Betsy comforted a crying woman that she had actually interviewed over the phone.
- Dealing with death every day is difficult but workers at LifeCenter are given purpose when making connections with families.
- It takes a high level of compassion and belief in the job to comfort people in their time of need.
- Conducting interviews over the phone, due to COVID, makes it more difficult to read emotions.
- Betsy must stay open-minded and understanding when approaching a family, especially over the phone.
- In such an emotionally taxing role, Betsy relies heavily on the support system at LifeCenter.
- Talking about and debriefing on the more difficult cases provides Betsy and her team with a form of relief.
- Teams that feel supported and encouraged tend to feel more confident and do better in their individual roles.
- When coming into such difficult and emotionally heavy conversations, it’s important to remain your authentic self.
- Though donor families will feel very alone, especially during a pandemic, there are always people/organizations out there to support them.
- Finding people that can relate to the process or pain can be a great way for grievers to find an outlet.
- Betsy made it her goal this year to simplify life and find the good amongst the sea of bad.
3 Key Points:
- In a world filled with so much negativity and bad things, Betsy loves her job at LifeCenter because she gets to see so much positivity and good.
- While the interview process is filled with difficult and uncomfortable questions for donor families, it must be completed to ensure that the organs being donated go to the right recipients.
- COVID has forced Betsy and others in her position to learn how to have these talks over the phone where emotion is harder to translate.