Organ donation, an issue that hardly ever crossed my mind, has now become an everyday obsession. The reason: An organ donation can save my son's life.
He has been waiting for more than a year, and he could still be waiting this time next year. The problem: There are not enough donors. There are 3,053 Georgians on the organ transplant list, and 37 are waiting for a heart like Shannon Leach, my son.
I became an organ donor long before Shannon was placed on the heart transplant list. It is a fact of life that I will die, but some of my organs may still be useful. If I have an organ that can be of help to someone else, I want that person to have whatever he or she needs.
My brother-in-law, who died recently, couldn't be a donor for most things because of his age. However, he could donate his eyes, and my sister is so proud that someone out there may have gained the sense of sight because of that decision. I am sure there are many organs every day that are not used for this wonderful purpose. I do not understand why.
If you are not an organ donor, let me introduce you to a good reason to become one -- my son. Shannon, who is 29, was born with congenital heart defects that led to two surgeries, which have allowed him to live a relatively normal life until now. Now his heart is beyond repair. His doctors at Emory placed him on the heart transplant list early last year.
As he waits for the perfect donor heart, his broken heart continues to beat thanks to the wonders of modern medicine. He carries a backpack that contains a battery-operated pump that continuously supplies his heart with the medicine it needs to continue beating. He also wears a defibrillator vest that will shock his heart should it begin to react negatively to the strength of that medicine. When the effectiveness of this wonder drug lessens, Shannon, who graduated from Shiloh High School in 1999 and from Georgia Southern University in 2003, will go into Emory until a matching heart becomes available.
For now, he waits at home. Shannon has slowly moved up the list since he was placed on it last February. His new heart must be a perfect match for his blood type, size and level of antibodies. All we can do is wait for that perfect match to become available.
Raising money and awareness for organ donation has become the focus for Shannon and our family. Last year we held three fundraisers in order to raise money for the medicine that will keep Shannon alive after his transplant. This money was placed into his fund with the Georgia Transplant Foundation, an organization that helps those who need transplants of any kind. We are pleased that many have made the decision to become an organ donor at our events.
This Friday, family, friends and maybe some of you complete strangers reading this article will convene on a golf course to raise money for Shannon. The event is at noon at the Country Club of Gwinnett for the Second Annual Shannon Leach "All Heart" Golf Tournament. Even if you don't play golf, come and support Shannon or sign up to become an organ donor.
Please consider becoming an organ donor if you are not one already. It is as simple as marking it on your driver's license. It is the right thing to do.
Deborah Hicks, who is retired after teaching high school English for 30 years in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, now resides with her husband in Oxford.