Organ donors save lives
Organ donors can be any age and come from all walks of life.
West Nassau High School’s Health Opportunity through Physical Education students learned about the impacts of organ donation Sept. 27.
Timothy “Scott” Rowland, Jr. was just 24 when he died Sept. 27, 2017. Sister Jenna Rowland recalled how her brother was critically injured after a falling utility pole struck him after he cut down a tree in Fernandina Beach.
She arrived at the hospital to find him hooked to a ventilator and other hospital equipment.
“When I saw him laying there like that, I knew it was going to be bad,” Rowland said.
A battery of tests within the next 18 hours showed that his brain was dead. His family opted to have his organs donated, including his eyes, liver and lungs, assisting six waiting recipients. Nearly 250 people received assistance through his blood and body tissue.
Friday marked the second anniversary of Scott’s death.
“He was my best friend,” Rowland said. “The hardest part was he was the light to everyone’s life. He was the one that made everyone laugh, so when it happened, it was hard to look past that, because he wasn’t there to make everyone smile.”
Austin Spires talked about how Scott liked to help others. The two were friends for nearly a decade.
“It’s pretty cliché, but everybody live your life, have your fun, do the things you want to do, because you never know when life’s gonna be over,” Spires said. “It’s the phone call you never want to get. I’ve experienced it with several people, with that being my closest friend. You know, have your fun. Do what you want to do, but watch out. Be careful.”
Approximately 113,000 people in the U.S. await an organ transplant.
In 2018, approximately 36,500 people received organs. And 10,700 people received organs from deceased donors, according to Pamela Rittenhouse, LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services’ public education coordinator.
Sixty-nine hundred people were living donors in 2018. For the 12-month period from September 2018 to August, Nassau County’s donor registration was 68 percent, according to Rittenhouse.
After the death of a donor, eight organs are usually harvested, including the lungs, heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys and intestines. Kidney transplants are most needed, with about 85 percent of those awaiting transplants in need of them, according to Rittenhouse.
WNHS Senior Ally Mangold highlighted how her grandfather, Jim Mangold, received a kidney in June 1998 and again in July 2012.
When he needed a third kidney transplant, fellow First United Methodist Church of Callahan member John Rodgers stepped up to donate. During his medical prescreening, doctors discovered that Rodgers had kidney cancer, which disqualified him from donation. The tumor was removed in June 2018.
“Through the willingness to donate the gift of life, he saved his own,” Ally said.
Turning to social media to locate another potential donor, Ally posted a picture of her grandfather’s truck. On the back window was a hand-painted message relaying his need for a kidney donor.
On March 24, 2018 and within eight minutes of her shared post, Sarah Keck responded that would like to donate her kidney. She and Jim spoke about the process three days later. The pair met that June and he received a kidney from her in July 2018.
“I helped him find a kidney through social media and that’s something I did when I was a junior and so it proves that you don’t have to be an adult,” Ally told her peers.
Jim Mangold talked about the challenges of living after transplant surgery. He has to make sure that the food he eats is free from bacteria because his immune system is suppressed. He maintains an active lifestyle through church and community activities. He has also built friendships with Rodgers and Keck. Jim and wife Cheryl consider them as part of their family.
Yulee resident Robert Paton told how his health began to decline in March 2006 after he had what he thought was the flu.
About a year later, he began experiencing fluid on his lung and shortness of breath. Doctors found that he had contracted a virus that weakened his heart.
“I got progressively worse and worse and worse,” Paton recalled.
He was admitted into the hospital and two months later on June 14, 2007 he received a heart. Paton knew soon after waking from surgery that he would be OK.
“I heard that new heart just like a hammer – bam, bam, bam,” he recalled.
Although Paton received his heart transplant in time, at least 20 people a day died in 2018 while waiting for a transplant surgery, Rittenhouse said.
To register as a donor, visit DonateLifeFlorida.org.