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The Voice of the Black Community


National Donor Sabbath is Sunday. Is your congregation participating?
It's chance to potentially give the gift of life
Published Thursday, November 9, 2017 3:04 pm
by Debbie Gibbs

Nov. 12 is a special day around the country.  It is the day that LifeShare Of The Carolinas will join clergy and healthcare professionals in observing the National Donor Sabbath, an interfaith celebration of the gifts of hope provided through organ and tissue donation.

Several congregations in the Charlotte area will participate.  One of them with a special celebration is First Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.  Members of the Charlotte Chapter of the Links, Inc. are planning to worship there as part of their annual Linkages to Life program to highlight the need for more organ and tissue donors in the black community.

Dr. Roger Denny, a physician with Carolinas HealthCare System and one of a very small number of African-American transplant surgeons in the country, is scheduled to speak briefly during the service.   He will be joined by one of his patients, Rhonda Johnson, a kidney transplant recipient.

A member of the Links, Johnson had been suffering from kidney disease for approximately 10 years when she got the call earlier this year that a donor kidney was available for her.  Dr. Denny was her surgeon.

Nationwide, there are approximately 116,000 individuals on the waiting list for an organ transplant.  Of that figure, more than 96,000 are in need of kidney transplants.  The need in the African-American is great, particularly in southern states.  In North Carolina, 52% of the people in need of a kidney transplant are black, much higher than our percentage of the population.  

Nearly all religions in the United States support organ and tissue donation as one of the highest expressions of compassion and generosity.  Yet, one of the more common reasons people use when they say no to donation is, “it’s against my religion.”   

That is despite a Gallup poll that showed that fewer than 10 percent of people in the United States are aware that their religion even has a written doctrine on organ donation. Although the beliefs differ from denomination to denomination, the underlying theme is the same:  Organ and tissue donation represents one of the highest forms of compassion and giving, the basic principle upon which all religions are based.

National Donor Sabbath is also a time each year when LifeShare Of The Carolinas, the local organ procurement organization, especially remembers those families who suffered the loss of a loved one and choose to donate their organs.  Despite a record number of donors nationwide last year, thousands of men, women and children continue to desperately wait for the donor that will save or improve their lives.  People like Rhonda Johnson.

I am my brother’s keeper
Individuals who are not sure about their faith’s position on donation are encouraged to ask their minister or spiritual advisor for clarification or to visit LifeShare’s web site for a list of positions by various religions at www.lifesharecarolinas.org/about-donation/religious-beliefs.

LifeShare still has Bible markers available to congregations that want to observe the Donor Sabbath this weekend. If your church is interested, please call the office at (704) 512-3303. Don’t take your organs to heaven. Heaven knows we need them here.

Signing up to be a donor in North Carolina is easy.  Interested individuals may register at the DMV when getting a driver’s license or a state issued ID card.  North Carolina residents who may not want to put a heart on their license may also register through the Apple Health App on iOS devices or online at www.donatelifenc.org/register.

Debbie Gibbs is public relations manager at LifeShare of the Carolinas, the regional organ procurement organization designed by the federal government to serve over 52 hospitals in a 23-county area of southwestern North Carolina.  In addition to facilitating organ transplants, LifeShare also operates an eye bank and recovers tissues for transplant.  

On the Net: www.lifesharecarolinas.org


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