South Charleston, W.Va. - Secretary of State Natalie Tennant attended the Donor Memorial Service at Thomas Hospital today, joining with the families of donors to say thank you for what she called a "wonderful and selfless act."
"I would like to thank Thomas Memorial Hospital for inviting me to be here today for such a special event. And I would especially like to personally thank the families of donors who are here with us today. It is a wonderful and selfless act to be an organ donor, and the men and women who decide to be organ donors deserve to be recognized at events like this one.
"I noticed something in the program. There is a line that says “One vote can change a nation.” That means something to me as West Virginia’s chief elections officer. But there is another line that means even more to me: “One life can make the difference.” I think the family members of those who are the recipient of organ donation will say that is definitely true. Imagine being helped by someone you don’t know and who doesn’t know you. Someone who may have lived a completely different life in a different state. But their life – even though it didn’t affect you at all – had meaning. And now, because of a decision they made to become an organ donor, they are helping a total stranger.
"We hear a lot about people volunteering. There are important organizations that all they do is find opportunities for people who want to volunteer. And what they have to give is their time. There are organizations that need your monetary donation to continue their good work of helping people. Think about the Red Cross helping the victims of the tsunami in Japan. Donating time and donating money are very important, but being an organ donor – that is something different.
"Organ donation is giving of yourself. It is selfless giving. It is giving life to someone who desperately needs help. It is giving a very special gift to someone and not expecting anything in return. I hope everyone in this room is an organ donor – I certainly am.
"It’s shocking to look at the statistics. One organization estimates that as of March 2011 there are more than 110,000 people waiting for organ transplants. That’s more than the entire populations of West Virginia’s two largest cities - Charleston and Huntington - combined. That includes almost 2,000 pediatric patients. 88,000 people need kidney transplants. Every ten minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
"Almost 20 people die every day because they did not receive the organ transplant they so desperately needed.
"But there is good news. In January 2011, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, there were almost 2,500 transplants performed. Of those transplants, more than 500 of them were performed from a living donor. Think about that – there are 500 people who are still alive today who selflessly donated an organ in January. 500 people who may have saved a life. That’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it?
"I encourage everyone to look into becoming an organ donor, and then make sure you follow all the steps to make sure that your family knows what your wishes are.
"Again, I would like to thank the families of people who have donated organs. I am grateful to be here with you on this special day."