POMEROY — The “Torch Run for Life” passed through Meigs this month as a large group of residents carried the Transplant Games of America Torch from the Pomeroy Courthouse to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
The non-profit Lifeline of Ohio organized this leg of the torch’s journey, involving locals who have been touched by organ and tissue donations.
Jessica Petersen, media coordinator for Lifeline, said the goal of her organization and ultimately the Transplant Games is to “raise awareness of all the good that is done by transplants and increase the number of organ donors.”
Over two dozen people gathered in the Common Pleas Courtroom of Judge I. Carson Crow recently for a brief presentation on the Transplant Games mission and goals. Most of the attendees had been involved with the transplantation as donors, recipients, or relatives of either.
Lifeline staff outlined the purpose of the games and the current state of organ donation in the county.
“About 123,000 individuals are on the national waiting list for life-saving organ transplants, and the need for more registered organ, eye and tissue donors in America is critical. Twenty-two people each day — men, women and children — die for lack of an available organ,” the group said.
They pointed out the impact a single donor can have, “potentially saving the lives of eight people and enhance the lives of up to 50 more.”
The affects were more personal for several participants.
“Our daughter received a liver 15 years ago, which changed our lives. We volunteer with lifeline whenever we can,” said Barb Crow.
Staff members from the court of common pleas were also present to express their support for the event. Following the ceremony, the group marched down the three flights of stairs to exit the courthouse, then headed down Court Street and east along Main Street. They carried signs encouraging cars to honk in solidarity, which led to a chorus of passing automobiles.
Lifeline of Ohio is a nonprofit that promotes and coordinates organ, eye and tissue donations.
“We are designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to work in 37 counties in southern Ohio and two in West Virginia,” said Petersen as she elaborated on the role of the organization. “We work directly with hospitals as a procurement service, and also try to educate the public and increase registered donors.”
The informational efforts meet in an unexpected place: where people obtain driver’s licenses. The first time many individuals are exposed to medical transplant comes when clerks ask if they would like to become organ donors.
Petersen explained that “if you have no information at 17 years old, it’s so easy to just go in and say no. Lauren (Fitting), our community outreach coordinator, has been working with the BMV for 10 years. If we can provide them with good information, hopefully they can pass that along to everyone who comes through the office.”
She added, “They’re really the front line. They’re the ones who are doing the asking.”
After the Torch group journey down Main Street to the BMV, the group congregated inside the building and thanked the BMV members for their participation. A few people entering the BMV for appointments were, at first, surprised to see such a large gathering, but became interested as walk members explained their purpose.
Lifeline staff distributed fact sheets for the clerks, and spoke briefly on some common misconceptions about the procedure — specifically about organ or tissue donation after death.
The Transplant Games will take place June 10-15 in Cleveland. The Olympic-style festivities include both donors and living recipients participating in athletics to celebrate.
“This will be our sixth time attending. We love to follow it as it moves around the country year to year. We’ve been to Orlando, we’ve been to St. Paul,” Crown said.
Aside from the powerful visual reminder of saved lives, the games attempt to build awareness of organ donation and encourage people to become registered donors. Lifeline is a sponsor of the games and hopes these efforts will benefit the 3,000 Ohioans currently waiting for an organ transplant.
Petersen concluded, “We want to show that this is a personal cause. People in Meigs have been touched, neighbors have been touched, families have been touched by this gift of life.”
For more information, call 800-525-5667 or visit the website at www.lifelineofohio.org.