November

Not just donors, but families, make gift of life possible

Published on Monday, November 2, 2015

Media Contact: Ruth Cummins at 601-984-1104 or ricummins@umc.edu.

Published in News Stories on November 02, 2015

Every day, for the three years since her beautiful and vibrant daughter Danielle died after suffering a brain hemorrhage, Cynthia Camel of Pearl has been able to smile.

This, despite losing the 19-year-old whose own life was a miracle after a difficult birth. This, despite three lost birthday celebrations, three Christmases without her, three Valentine's Days unshared.

Danielle Bryant
Danielle Bryant

It's because Danielle Bryant lives on in four other people who received life-saving organs after Danielle's passing - and because Cynthia Camel said yes.

“I wear a smile on my face every day because of the decision I made three years ago to let her be a donor,” Camel said.

The Pearl resident's testimony of faith and generosity in the wake of painful loss rings true with other Mississippians who made the decision to donate the organs of loved ones. Their selflessness was recognized Friday at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's adult and pediatric Wall of Heroes ceremony. Photographs of organ donors over the past year are on display in the Adult Hospital and in Batson Children's Hospital.

UMMC head chaplain Doris Whitaker offers words of comfort to family members of organ donors during the annual Wall of Heroes ceremony.
UMMC head chaplain Doris Whitaker offers words of comfort to family members of organ donors during the annual Wall of Heroes ceremony.

“Life has a way of changing, and each season has its own beauty,” UMMC head chaplain Doris Whitaker told families of donors and representatives of the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency gathered in the hospital's chapel for the dedication service. “Remember, there is beauty in every season ... a time to cry, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn, but also a time to dance.”

In Batson's pediatric intensive care unit, “we care for the sickest children in Mississippi, and we celebrate our wins,” said Dr. Carrie Henderson, a pediatric critical care physician. “But we also commend our losses, as those are equally if not more important.

“I want to say thank you to the brave, generous donor families here with us today,” she told more than 100 people gathered in the chapel. “Your gift of life has truly made heroes of your loved ones to all of us, and especially to someone in need.”

Jackie McInnis of Mount Olive takes a photo of her son Gary's display on the pediatric Wall of Heroes.
Jackie McInnis of Mount Olive takes a photo of her son Gary's display on the pediatric Wall of Heroes.

That need is overwhelming, said MORA spokesman Chuck Stinson. About 1,500 Mississippians are waiting for an organ; they're among 123,000 Americans also on a transplant list. MORA handles about 70 organ donations annually, with each donor gifting about three organs.

Surgeons at UMMC so far this year have transplanted 67 kidneys, five pancreases, 23 livers and 10 hearts in adults and five kidneys and two hearts in children. In all of 2014, the adult numbers were 95 kidneys, 11 pancreases, 23 livers and nine hearts, and no transplants for children.

“The list continues to grow because of the lack of organ donors,” Stinson said. “Every 10 minutes, someone goes on the national waiting list for a transplant.”

amily members of organ donors listen to words of comfort and inspiration during the annual Wall of Heroes ceremony.
amily members of organ donors listen to words of comfort and inspiration during the annual Wall of Heroes ceremony.

It's because a family stepped forward that Terri Gillespie's sister-in-law lives diabetes-free today. Last fall, Nancy Smith of Jackson became the first person in the state to receive an isolated pancreas transplant at UMMC.

“My sister waited three years for an organ,” Gillespie, UMMC's chief nursing officer and a longtime critical care nurse, explained during the dedication. And when an organ was found, Gillespie said, the first thing her sister did was pray for the donor and the donor's family.

“She said, 'Please let them know that this gift is giving me more time with my children,' ” Gillespie remembered. “I saw that sacrificial love and gift.”

Cynthia Camel made the decision to donate the organs of her daughter Danielle Bryant, then 19, after Danielle died of a brain hemorrhage.
Cynthia Camel made the decision to donate the organs of her daughter Danielle Bryant, then 19, after Danielle died of a brain hemorrhage.

Three years and three days to the date of her daughter's death, Camel said, she heard from the person in Sunflower County who no longer must undergo dialysis because of the gift of her daughter's kidney. “I felt like I had been able to connect back with Danielle,” she said of their meeting.

“It hurts so, so bad, but God let me have her for 20 years,” Camel said. “My little girl is all over the place now, and today, I am so happy.”