POINT PLEASANT — The gift of life in the form of organ donation took center stage at Pleasant Valley Hospital on Wednesday.
Each year, the hospital partners with the Center for Organ Recovery (CORE) for a ceremony in honor of National Donate Life Month.
Glen Washington, PVH CEO, kicked off the ceremony by talking about the “heroes” in the room and his own experience with organ donation. Washington’s mother was the recipient of a kidney transplant which he said “gave her a new lease on life,” and an “extra 11 yeas of a fantastic life.”
The ceremony included testimonies from those who have been the recipients of organ donations, like Rick Stafford.
In 2015, Stafford, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease which causes irreversible damage to the liver. He told those gathered, he was on a transplant list for around three months when he got the call from The Ohio State University medial center, that they’d found a matching liver.
“The good Lord has really blessed me,” he said, saying he’d had no complications. “I do not know my donor but I hope and pray that person is blessed in heaven with some kind of reward there.”
Crystal Tolley, executive director Pleasant Valley Medical Group, also spoke about her own family members who suffer from kidney disease, saying an aunt and uncle had received new kidneys via the “gracious gift of life.” However, she anticipated three more family members would eventually end up on the transplant list.
“They will need the gift of life to sustain life,” she said, telling those gathered that she had seen firsthand how organ donation is a “fantastic way to live on.”
Then Brandy Barkey Sweeney spoke about her experiences receiving a heart transplant. Sweeney, a strong advocate for organ donation, was diagnosed with a rare type of heart failure in 2014 during a pregnancy. A mother of three young children, Sweeney talked about facing the uncertainty of life with a failing heart. She told those gathered she had faith that “God had his hand in everything” when it came to her journey.
“I have a shirt that says, ‘Inside this chest beats the heart of a hero,’” she explained. “Because of my hero, I got to see my daughter walk for the first time…”
Sweeney then talked about several first times with her children, including sons Bryson and Braydon, which have happened since her transplant and the ripple effect of that second chance on life, crediting her donor for those opportunities.
“If you’re not a donor I highly encourage you to become one…help a mother like me, help children who would not have had a mother otherwise,” she said.
Then, Sweeney’s son Braydon asked to say a few words: “There was a person and he gave his heart to mommy and he was a nice guy and we also pray for him, because he was a really nice guy to mommy and gave mommy his heart, amen.”
Leading the invocation and prayers was Pastor John Holland and also speaking were Dr. Heather Skeens, ophthalmologist at PVH and Christy Conley, Community Outreach Coordinator CORE Liaison. Members of the color guard from the American Legion Post #23 of Point Pleasant, assisted with the flag raising ceremony.
Beth Sergent is the editor of Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org