Donate Life

Pam Helmlinger, with her husband, Kelly, and 4-year-old son, Ryland, who received part of Kyle Fisher’s liver, speaks at VUMC’s Donate Life Month Flag-Raising Ceremony.

Flag-raising event honors selflessness of organ donation

Organ donors and their families were saluted recently at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s annual Donate Life Flag-Raising Ceremony.

by Matt Batcheldor When Beverly Fite’s brother, Dan, needed a liver transplant, she had a feeling like a lot of potential living organ donors — she immediately knew she would be the one to donate. She had recently learned that Vanderbilt University Medical Center makes it possible for someone to donate part of their liver to a loved one, and the resulting partial livers in the donor and recipient can regenerate to become fully functional organs, typically within six weeks. After other relatives were tested and Beverly was determined to be the best match, she didn’t hesitate to donate her liver, which she did in May 2022. She has no regrets. “If you're given an opportunity to, do something,” she said. “Give a gift to someone who you love so dearly. … For me, this is my big brother. He was a huge part of just me becoming me.” Beverly, who is finishing nursing school at Auburn University, will be among the guest speakers at VUMC’s Donate Life Flag-Raising Ceremony, part of a national effort to raise awareness about the need for organ and tissue donors. The event, scheduled for noon on Friday, April 14 by the flagpole on the VUMC Plaza, celebrates families of deceased organ donors, living donors and hospital staff who care for donors and transplant recipients. This is the first year the event is being held in person since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beverly’s brother, Dan, was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis at 12, and he came under Vanderbilt’s care when he came to Nashville to study at Belmont University. His doctors were able to manage his condition for years, through bouts of stabbing pain in his abdomen due to gallstones. Dan knew he would eventually need a new liver, but the scarcity of available deceased donor livers meant he could spend years on a waiting list as he got sick enough to qualify. That set in motion the search for a liver donor, starting with many of his cousins. When he found out his sister was his best match, he had mixed emotions. “I was relieved because it meant we were going to be able to get the surgery done,” he said, but “in the grand scheme of things, I probably would have rather had her not go through that. But now that we've all come through and all out on the other side, all I can do is just express my extreme gratitude and commend her bravery.” Both siblings had the opportunity to recover together over the summer of 2022 in a home in Nashville, supported by multiple family members, during Beverly’s break from nursing school. Through it all, the siblings’ bond, already close, became tighter still. For Beverly, seeing Dan for the first time after the surgery, made it all worth it. His skin, even the whites of his eyes, were no longer jaundiced. “I was getting to see just what a gift I was able to give him,” she said. “This is incredible. This is amazing.” Dan said he’s feeling fine for the most part and is incredibly grateful to his sister. “Bev, to me, is the best of us,” Dan said. “She is the most generous soul. And I am not only forever indebted to her, but I … admire her and want to be her when I grow up.”

Donate Life Flag-Raising Ceremony set for April 14

Vanderbilt’s Donate Life Flag-Raising Ceremony, part of a national effort to raise awareness about the need for organ and tissue donors is scheduled for noon on Friday, April 14 by the flagpole on the VUMC Plaza.

Last Christmas, I knew a liver transplant was my only chance to survive. This holiday, I’m alive because of the ultimate gift.

It never leaves my thoughts that someone I don’t know made it possible for me to still be here.

The Eitl family poses with the plaque the family donated to thank the transplant team for taking care of Joe Eitl, who received a heart and liver transplant last year.

Transplant docuseries lauded by Donate Life Hollywood

“Last Chance Transplant,” the docuseries filmed at Vanderbilt in conjunction with 44 Blue Productions and Rock’n Robins Productions, received the 2022 Inspire Award on Thursday, Aug. 25, from Donate Life Hollywood.

Donate Life T-shirts available at VUH Gift Shop

VUMC nurse Fredia Fisher, RN, spoke about her son, Kyle, and the legacy he left behind through his donations. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital holds celebration to honor organ and tissue donors

Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital (VWCH) recently recognized the generosity of organ and tissue donors through a limited-attendance flag raising ceremony.

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