Organ Donation: Knowing your wishes now could save grief & lives
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Elizabeth Jetton is only three months shy of her second birthday. Only three days shy of five months, breathing through another baby's lungs.
But her mother is certain.
"Organ donation has made the difference between my daughter being alive and not being alive," Chattanooga Police Officer Sheila Jetton says.
The heart icon on Officer Jetton's Tennessee drivers license makes clear that she's been willing donate her own organs well before doctors diagnosed little Elizabeth's rare lung disease and heart problems.
"You can't take the organs with you," she says. "They're not gonna do anyone any good."
No one understands that harsh reality more than the family of Kainen Boring, a Bledsoe County High School football player whose brain injury became apparent after he was tackled during practice earlier this month.
Doctors detected no brain activity, but his parents chose to keep him on live support until Tennessee Donor Services (TDS) could find recipients for his vital organs. Kainen died Sunday.
"We kept praying," his uncle Kendall Smith says. "Some family is sitting around doing the same thing, not wanting to give up their son or daughter. This will be hope for them."
Kainen was only 17 years old.
"For minors, it's their parents' decision as to what to do," Donor Services spokeswoman Dawn Benjamin says. "But we reach out to high school students, because the question will come up as they're filling out paperwork for their driver's licenses."
Adults can signup to join the organ donor registry online by clicking here.
The Registry is considered legally binding; family members cannot override your wishes.
"Right now though, about two thirds of our donor cases come from family consent," Benjamin says. "That's unfortunate. We want to get it up to where the family already knows what their wishes were, and it's documented."
Unless you've registered already, Donor Services won't approach you or your family about becoming an organ donor until caregivers determine that all life-saving efforts have failed.
"Maybe it's something they (family members) want to do," Benjamin says. "To help leave a legacy."
More than 2500 Tennesseans are on the TDS transplant waiting list. Last year, 95 died before an organ became available. Nationwide the waiting list includes more than 1700 children.
"We try to live our lives the way God would have us to," Kainen Boring's uncle says. "This is something God would have us do."
Within weeks, TDS will tell Kainen's family where his organs went.
But not to whom, not yet.
"We won't name names, won't put them (donor and recipient families) in touch with each other, unless both are willing," Benjamin says.
"It's kind of hard to come up with what you want to say," Officer Sheila Jetton says.
But, she's determined to write that thank-you letter. She'd like to deliver it, in time for Elizabeth's follow-up check-up in Houston, later this year.
"It'll be emotional, I know," she says. "There's not enough words for thanking someone for saving your child."