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Donate Life honors those who gave the ultimate gift

Apr. 13, 2022, 1:38 PM

by Matt Batcheldor

After his death in 2019, Phillip Nathan Pierce saved the lives of five people when he donated six of his organs at VUMC.

Phillip Nathan Pierce of Shelbyville, Tennessee, was full of life.

“He was a twin,” his mother, Trisha, recalled. “Had an army of friends, sweetest boy in the world, most infectious smile, laugh. “That boy loved fishing. Whatever day, it didn’t matter what the weather was, if he could go fishing, that boy was going to be on a creek or a bank or a river somewhere fishing.”

When Phillip died suddenly in 2019 at 24 years old, he saved the lives of five people when he donated six of his organs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Phillip is one of the hundreds of organ donors who have made their final gift at VUMC that are celebrated during April, National Donate Life Month.

Before COVID-19, VUMC would hold a flag raising ceremony every year at this time, inviting organ donor families to be honored for the gifts of their loved ones. This year, families and the public are invited to view a virtual ceremony at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqqnNEtUnCQ. More patients generously gave their gift of organs at Vanderbilt last year than any other single hospital in the United States.

A total of 109 people gave the gift of life as deceased organ donors at VUMC in 2021,  saving 280 lives, more than any other year, according to Tennessee Donor Services (TDS). A total of 203 people were tissue donors, enhancing the lives of 3,165 people, reported TDS, the federally designated donor network that facilitates organ and tissue donation in the region.

Trisha said she discussed the importance of organ donation with Phillip and his sister, Kristin, when they were younger, well before they stated their intentions on their driver’s licenses.

“When the time arose, that was absolutely something that was going to be done,” she said. “If anything can help, the greatest thing about any kind of loss is knowing that life can be saved, and there is no greater gift than the gift of life and to know that he saved as many people that he did.”

Trisha continues to be a strong advocate for organ donation. Every year on Phillip’s birthday, the family releases balloons down by his favorite fishing spot. She wears her green Donate Life bracelet every day and flies the Donate Life flag.

“There is a hole in my heart that will never heal,” she said. “There truly is no greater loss than the loss of a child, but to know his gift of life that he selflessly gave to others, well, there is just no greater feeling. I will continue to advocate for donor awareness any and every chance that I have.”

To learn more about becoming an organ and tissue donor, visit bethegifttoday.com. Tennessee drivers can also choose to become an organ donor on their driver’s license applications. Donors are encouraged to share their decisions with their families.

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