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Toby's Take: Donate Life Month

Black and white posed photo of Toby Cook's family. Pictured are Toby, his father, mother and sibling.

April 13, 2022

Spring has sprung! And then winter fights back. But we all know spring will win in the end.

April is a wonderful month to enjoy the emerging growth of flowers and grass, although I prefer not to mention the white stuff budding on trees that had my sinuses in a death grip last week.

April is also Donate Life Month, a chance to honor organ, tissue and eye donors at The University of Kansas Health System.

Throughout this month, the health system will recognize this great sacrifice:

  • Blue and Green Day – Staff will honor donors and our employees involved in donations and transplants. Many of our folks will be wearing “No One Fights Alone” shirts designed by our own staff.
  • Donate Life Celebration – This is for families whose loved ones have donated organs, tissue or eyes. The event will be held at our Main Campus in Kansas City, Kansas.
  • Coffee sleeves at all health system locations of The Roasterie Café will share the important message about joining the organ, tissue and eye donor registry.

Following these national and world days requires daily maintenance. Like other industries, I’m sure, there is a National Something or a World This & That for every conceivable healthcare concern or caregiver. I had my first chance to tour our main laboratories this week for National Lab Week at the end of April (another blog!). And we’re very much looking forward to celebrating National Nursing Week, for example, in May.

Donate Life Month is unique. It’s sensitive and personal and can create a mush of feelings for both the donor’s family and the recipient. While it’s crucial that health systems receive donations from the living (blood, plasma, kidneys for paired living kidney donations, etc. ), many times donations come from heartbreak.

Permit me, for a paragraph – whether you’re celebrating Passover, Holy Week, Ramadan or are a person of no particular faith – to quote a verse: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Donate Life Month observes the sacrifice of one for the other.

You can’t give a better gift than that to the recipients or the families of loved ones who no longer have use of these miracle tissues.

My dad's story

Permit me, also, to get personal. You might recall I started my introductory blog a few weeks ago with the line, “My dad took me to my first Royals game.” He didn’t live to see me work for the Royals, but he did watch me on TV as an anchor and reporter for many years. When my dad died young, age 69, of a massive heart attack following only a year’s treatment for congestive heart failure, it rocked my world. I was only 31 and never had the chance to say goodbye. He was gone before the ambulance arrived at the hospital. At that crucial and agonizing moment for my mom and sister, a friend who accompanied them to the ER pulled them aside and basically advocated for tissue donation on the spot.

That is a confusing and perhaps even ghoulish thing for someone to hear just after losing a loved one. But time was of the essence. Before we buried my dad, a mild-mannered, joke-telling, glint-in-his-eye elementary school principal, some of his organs were on their way to the LIVING. That brought me a tremendous amount of comfort in an otherwise lousy winter of 1998.

Here’s the end of that story of heartbreak, loss and new life. We found out later that my dad’s corneas had been donated to a woman who lived in Kansas City. That meant, in theory, that she could watch me on TV through my father’s eyes. You can’t give a better gift than that to the recipients or the families of loved ones who no longer have use of these miracle tissues.

To add your name to the donor registry, go to sharelifemidwest.com.

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