It meant the world, Liz Wroten said, to stand close to Linda Amos last week and watch a swath of balloons float slowly toward the heavens.
After all, the heart of Wroten's son Chase beats today in Amos' chest.
"All I could think about was him and what he did for people like Linda," said Wroten, a Terry resident whose 19-year-old son died from a stroke in April 2011 after pitching in a baseball game at Hinds Community College in Raymond.
Chase's healthy heart was transplanted into Amos, whose own heart was left damaged from a heart attack several years earlier. Chase's family made the decision to donate not just his heart, but multiple organs.
Their story was among many shared Friday at the inaugural Legacy Lap hosted by the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency and the University Transplant Guild. Held during National Donate Life Month, the event on the UMMC campus brought together the families of organ, eye and tissue donors along with transplant recipients and their families to celebrate those who have given the gift of life and to promote the need for donation in Mississippi.
"When you see a recipient and a donor family together and you just know how happy the recipient family is, it does help in some way, and it gives you peace of mind," Wroten said.
"Without donor families, I would not be able to be here," said Amos, a Rankin County resident who received her transplant at UMMC.
Christy Ivy (left) and Chastity Tanner remember Tanner's son Landon, an organ donor.
The balloon launch by family members of both recipients and donors was a highlight of the Legacy Lap, which was to include a walk through the University Hospital lobby to view the Wall of Heroes, which honors past organ donors. Weather concerns canceled that portion of the event. Pictures of both Walls of Heroes from the adult hospital and Batson Children's Hospital were on display for viewing.
The event also highlighted the work of the UMMC Transplant program. During the last five years, there have been 181 organ donors from UMMC, resulting in more than 650 life-saving transplants.
"Transplantation is often the only life-saving option for patients with end-stage organ failure," said Dr. Mark Earl, UMMC assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Transplant and Hepatobiliary Surgery. "The donors and their families are the true heroes by making an incredibly selfless decision in their most difficult hour.
"Thousands of lives are saved every year by this precious gift. Without their generosity, transplantation is simply not possible."
University Transplant Guild president Theresa Anderson speaks on the importance of organ donation during the Legacy Lab. The Guild is a nonprofit fundraising organization formed to assist UMMC's transplant patients.
Today, MORA says, more than 1,400 Mississippians and 123,000 Americans are in need of a life-saving transplant. A new person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, and an average of 21 people die each day waiting for a life-saving transplant that never comes.
"Registered donors and donor families keep hope alive for those in need of a life-saving organ transplant," said Kevin Stump, MORA's chief executive officer. "Their decision to give the gift of life allows Mississippians and other Americans on a transplant waiting list to believe that their life will one day be better because someone chose to give."
To register as an organ, eye and tissue donor, go to www.donatelifems.org.
Belinda Smith proudly displays a photo of her daughter Kira Barrett, an organ donor.