Hospitals across Louisiana are participating in National Donate Life Month in April. Willis-Knighton Health System and the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA) are hoping to raise awareness about the need for donor registration in Shreveport and surrounding areas.
Battalion Chief Gene Williams of the Shreveport Fire Department recalled his journey through contracting Hepatitis-A to needing a liver transplant. Only a few years ago, Williams was one of the more than 110,000 men, women and children on the national transplant waiting list in dire need of an organ. Williams was diagnosed with Hepatitis-A in July 2004 shortly after returning from a vacation in Destin, Florida. He desperately needed a liver transplant as his illness became increasingly worse. Fortunately, he got one.
Williams told us that the experience changed his view on life, "I was a different person then than I am now. I thought I was bulletproof." He uses this new outlook on life to help LOPA encourage others to possibly save lives by becoming a donor just how someone was able to save his.
Becoming a donor is an easy thing for people to do, said Williams. He explained that people can add it to their driver's licenses by going online. Dr. Gazi Zibari, a transplant surgeon for Willis-Knighton Healthy System and LSUHSC, told us that saving lives through donation would not be possible without the community's support, so registering as a donor is vital.
One young woman who was able to give her support through donation was Jennifer White, who died two years ago when she was 20-years-old. Today, her father and mother, Doug and Julie White, carry on their daughter's legacy by telling her story to raise awareness that one organ donor can save up to nine lives.
According to LOPA, one person is added to the waiting list every twelve minutes.
Throughout April, Donate Life flags will fly high at hospitals across the nation to honor those affected by donations and encourage people to become organ donors.