Donated organs give hope, life to others -

Donated organs give hope, life to others

More than 100,000 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant this year. Unfortunately, 6,000 of those individuals will die before the organ they need is available.

Carolyn Henry Glaspy's personal story of tragedy has became a source of hope for others, and a call to action to save the lives of those waiting for organ transplants.

In 2009, a fatal fall from the back of a pickup severely injured Glaspy's son, former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry.

Paramedics rushed Henry to the emergency room at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC, where he succumbed to his injuries the next day.

"When I laid my head on Chris' chest, I always knew he was a giver, but just to feel his heart beat, it actually went into mine," Glaspy recalled.

When doctors informed Glaspy that her son was dead, she was faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to donate his organs and tissue.

Despite the growing need for organs, only 43 percent of Americans 18 and over have actually registered as organ donors.

Furthermore, some family members are afraid if they agree to donate a loved one's organs that doctors will quit trying to save a sick or injured person's life.

According to the non-profit Donate Life America, this isn't true. They say a hospital's number one priority is to save a person's life and that organ and eye tissue donations can only be considered after a person is dead.

There are others who are fearful their loved one's body will be dismembered once organs and tissue have been removed.

Donate Life America says that isn't true either. An open-casket funeral is possible even after the removal of organs and tissue.

"When Chris came back to me, they promised me my son was going to be in the same condition that I left him," Glaspy said. "When I looked at him, he was."

In the spring of 2012, three years following her son's death, Glaspy returned to Carolinas Medical Center to thank both the medical staff who she says provided an excellent level of care for her son as well as employees with LifeShare of the Carolinas, the not-for-profit organ procurement organization that guided her through the organ donation process.

Five complete strangers received Chris Henry's organs, including Donna Arnold.

"I received a pancreas and kidney. So, it did away with my diabetes and dialysis," Arnold said.

Brian Polk received Henry's second kidney, and he says it was just in the nick of time.

"You go through this battle for so long, and it's like you see the finish line," Polk added.

Henry's heart, lungs and liver went to three other individuals who, later, died.

An organ match is better if the donor and the recipient are from the same ethnic background. That's why there's a huge need for organ donors from ethnic minorities.

"It's just a blessing that she had the spirit and the heart to give," Polk said. "When she [Carolyn Henry Glaspy] gave, it made a tremendous difference in my life."

By sharing her story, Glaspy said she hopes to make a tremendous difference in the lives of others who are in need of an organ transplant and to encourage those who haven't made the choice to donate their organs, to do just that.

To become an organ donor, the most important thing you can do is sign up on your state's donor registry, or say "yes" the next time you're at the Department of Motor Vehicles office.

You should also make it very clear to your immediate family members and friends that you have made the decision to donate your organs.

If you would like to sign up to be an organ donor, go to This site provides a map that will tell you how to sign up in the state where you live.


Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information: 

  • As of May 2012, 114,511 people were waiting for an organ transplant in the U.S. (Source: Donate Life America)
  • The percentage of the U.S. population who are organ donors is 42.7%. (Source: Donate Life America)
  • 95% of organ donors make a decision to donate their organs while at the DMV. (Source: Donate Life America)
  • UNOS manages the nation's transplant system (Organ Procurement Transplantation Network or OPTN) under contract with the federal government. Donate Life America is a sister organization that promotes donation or organs.  (Source: OPTN)
  • Eight people can benefit from an individual's organs. The organs that are removed include the heart, lungs (2), kidneys (2), liver, pancreas, and intestines. In addition, organ tissue can also be removed.
  • Five people received organs from Chris Henry. The three recipients of his lungs, heart and liver died. Donna Arnold received two organs and Brian Polk received one organ. Both of them are alive.  (Source: LifeShare of the Carolinas)
  • Donate Life America says an organ match is better if the donor and the recipient are from the same ethnic background. That's why there's huge need for organ donors from ethnic minorities. Most African Americans have either an O or B blood type. So, an organ recipient's blood type must match up with the donor's blood type. An African American could receive an organ from a White individual as long as the blood types are a match. There is less chance of the organ being rejected from the recipient's body if the organ donor and the organ recipient are of the same ethnicity.
  • In 2011, more than 22,000 lives were saved because damaged and failing hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs and pancreata were replaced. Tissue transplants are used to treat a variety of health problems ranging from blindness to bone cancer.
  • An open casket funeral is possible for organ, eye and tissue donors. Through the entire donation process, the body is treated with care, respect and dignity.
  • There are 100 million registered donors in the United States with 42 percent of individuals age 18 and older registered as organ, eye and tissue donors.
  • Donation and transplantation save lives. There is a critical shortage of organs nationwide. Over 6,600 people died in 2011 waiting for a life-saving organ transplant that doesn't come in time.
  • One donor can save seven lives through organ donation (heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys and lungs) and enhance more than 75 lives through tissue donation.
  • To be an organ donor, the most important thing you can do is say "yes" at the DMV or sign-up on your state's donor registry. For a complete listing, visit It's also a good idea to tell your family that you have done so.
  • The majority of people who need transplants need kidney transplants. The need is especially critical among minorities.
  • There are 58 organ procurement organizations nationwide.
  • Over 750,000 tissue transplants from heart valve replacements to corneal transplants are performed in the United States each year.
  • On average, 18 men, women and children died each day waiting for a life-saving organ transplant in the U.S.
  • About 20,000 organ transplants take place in the U.S. each year.
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