April 21, 2006

Events highlight many lives touched by organ donation

Featured Image

Rosemary Bane, right, mother of Ben Bane, who donated his organs, receives a hug from Carolyn Tibbs, an administrative assistant in the Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Program, after speaking about her son at the Organ Donor Awareness Day and Gift of Life Celebration last week.
Photo by Dana Johnson

Events highlight many lives touched by organ donation

Sierra Sekulich, right, who had a double lung and heart transplant earlier this year, attended with her donor's mother, Kimberly McCulley.        
Photo by Dana Johnson

Sierra Sekulich, right, who had a double lung and heart transplant earlier this year, attended with her donor's mother, Kimberly McCulley.
Photo by Dana Johnson

A little over a month after getting his learner's permit, Ben Bane was transported via LifeFlight to Vanderbilt University Medical Center after suffering massive head trauma in a four-wheeling accident.

The decision by his parents, Charles and Rosemary Bane, to ultimately donate his organs was not a difficult one: they simply followed the wishes of their 16-year-old son.

“He told me he wanted to be an organ donor when I took him for his learner's permit,” said Rosemary Bane. “It was one of the most important decisions my son ever made. When we were told he was brain dead, it was easier knowing that donating was what Ben wanted. It's wonderful knowing that you can give someone an opportunity to live, and that is just what Ben did.”

The Banes spoke to a packed theater in the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt last week during the Organ Donor Awareness Day and Gift of Life Celebration hosted by the Vanderbilt Transplant Center.

It was the finale in a series of educational events encouraging people to sign donor cards and talk to family members about organ donation.

“You don't have to be something amazing to be a hero,“ said Ben's father, Charles. “All you have to have is a heart big enough. That's the kind of son we had. I couldn't be more proud that he chose to be an organ donor.”

Wright Pinson, M.D., director of the Transplant Center, applauded donors, recipients and transplant teams for their dedication to renewal of life.

“There are a lot of us who make up a transplant team. I tip my hat to you for participating in this process and the resiliency you show.”

Donna Russell, now a Tennessee Donor Services (TDS) employee, took care of Ben Bane while he was in Vanderbilt's trauma unit.

“The night he died is when I decided I wanted to work more closely with donors. I keep a picture of Ben in my my desk because he is the reason I do what I do.”

Russell, a senior organ recovery coordinator, had been a nurse since 1993. She joined TDS in 2003, four months after Ben's death.

“When I'm doing a case I am not only there for the donor family, I am there for the potential seven to eight recipients.

“And with tissue recipients, there could be hundreds. It's like dropping a pebble in a pond and seeing the ripples that are created. That's how I see what I do.”

In concert with the Gift of Life, the Spring Ethics Grand Rounds also attracted a nearly packed house with the topic “Reviving Cardiac Death Criteria: Will It Make a Difference? Will It Affect Patient Care? Is It Good?”

A panel of four speakers discussed Vanderbilt's proposed donation after cardiac death policy, which is in draft form and under discussion.

The policy's focus is on the patient during end of life and not the potential for organ harvesting.

“This is really based upon providing an option for families whose child or family member is terminally ill and on major life support to do good on behalf of the patient,” said Jay Deshpande, M.D., professor of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics. “Right now only patients who are brain dead are eligible to donate. This policy allows another group of patients to donate life.”

In another event held earlier in the month, the Nashville African-American Forum on Organ and Tissue Donation, the focus was to increase awareness about the critical need for organ donors within the minority community.

Leaders from the minority community were invited to attend the discussion in hopes of taking the information back to civic groups, churches, businesses and neighborhoods to promote involvement.

Keynote speaker Clive Callender, M.D., founder of the National Minority Organ/Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP) and chair of Surgery at Howard University College of Medicine, said the primary problem in transplantation is the shortage of donors.

“Minorities make up more than half of the kidney transplant waiting list,” he said. “We are in the greatest need and therefore we need to be among the highest donor pool. This is a problem of epidemic proportions. We have to overcome the obstacles to donation.”

Callender said it will take a grass roots effort to achieve awareness, action and accountability among minorities.

In the past, lack of awareness, religious myths, distrust of the medical community, fear of premature death and racism have contributed to low minority participation.

Nashville is one of 11 national MOTTEP sites and will serve as a model for all minorities.