Hope Has a Voice
A message from Kevin Myer, president and CEO
LifeGift Offers Hope
Often I am asked what this simple statement means. Let me share with you what I witnessed during the Donate Life Transplant Games of America, and I think you’ll understand.
These Games brought together transplant recipients, donor families, transplant clinicians, OPO staff, community leaders and others from all over the United States and beyond to celebrate the Gift of Life.
As I watched transplant recipients – kids and adults alike – compete in many events with immense joy, remembrance and sportsmanship, this idea of offering hope was clear. We offer hope to transplant recipients that life can be lived fully and with passion after transplantation. And the recipients offered hope to the donor families in attendance because win or lose, the message from all the athletes was remarkably consistent: “We do this to honor our donor and donor family and to celebrate how lives have been saved.”
The Games undoubtedly offered hope to those waiting for a second chance. At each competition and each event, those in need heard the resounding message that they, too, will one day soon “get the call” with the news that someone has given the gift of life.
Living donors offered hope to others who might be considering a similar act of altruism – that being a living donor does not mean you live life on the sidelines.
And for the families and friends of deceased donors, hope was offered knowing that their loved ones’ gifts really did make a difference for so many and that their legacies continue.
And we offered hope to each other.
When I began my role as CEO at LifeGift in January 2013, it had just been announced the month before that the Games were coming to Houston. One of my biggest worries was how we were going to make the Transplant Games happen while at the same time making sure we were not distracted from our need to focus on organ, eye and tissue donation.
Enter Bill Ryan from the Transplant Games; the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority; Team Texas; our partners in the Texas Medical Center; Donate Life Texas; our partner OPOs; and not to mention the countless volunteers. These amazing people and organizations worked together to make it happen.
I will leave you with one last experience that will help you understand what I mean about “we offer hope.”
At one of the numerous celebration events during the Games, I had one of the most amazing exchanges I’ve ever had in my 25 years of work in this field. In greeting one of our Houston-based transplant program leaders, she told me that we had “wiped out the wait list” for that particular organ type at her center. With our recent activity, we managed to help every transplant patient on the list! I was stunned – and actually speechless. (For those who know me, that is a rare event!)
Since then, of course, more people have been added to the list for that particular organ, but at that moment, I experienced such hope for the future for so many people and such gratitude for all those who had donated.
The Games were just one example of offering hope. We engage in this each and every time we come across a registered donor or encounter a family who, despite unspeakable tragedy, makes the decision to donate.
One thing is certain: There is hope for those waiting and for all of us working together in transplantation.
Our call to action from the Games is to register 8 million Texans in the Donate Life Texas Registry by year 2016. We can do this with your help. I challenge you to encourage your friends, family and neighbors who have yet to make the lifesaving decision to say “Yes” to donation. It’s not an option or an opportunity. It’s an obligation. You, too, can offer hope.