April is National Donate Life Month, a chance to thank organ, eye and tissue donors and inspire more people to donate.
A Honolulu woman is inspiring others with her legacy of life.
Helen Chisum was always the life of the party and, at the age of 61, was active in the running community. She loved running and doing marathons.
But on Jan. 17, Chisum’s daughter, Carla Kida, received an unexpected phone call. Her mom had collapsed in a doctor’s office and died.
“It was a shock, because it was an aneurysm,” Kida said. “She was otherwise healthy. It was such a shocking thing that happened.”
Kida knew her mom was a designated organ donor. Her kidneys were donated to two people in Maryland.
“When someone dies, you feel powerless. You feel that something has been taken away, and to be able to give back, to give to others at a time when you’re at a loss, has been the best thing for us,” Kida said.
According to a Gallup survey, 20 percent of people over the age of 65 years mistakenly think they’re too old to donate an organ, while 12 percent believe they’re too old to receive one.
Not true. Last year in Hawaii, nearly 20 percent of our organ donors were 50 or older and two were over 60.
“You can be an organ donor from the age birth to 75 years,” said Tiffany Wienand, Legacy of Life Hawaii.
The numbers were even greater for tissue donors: 40 percent were over the age of 60, including one person who was 80.
So far in 2016, there have been seven organ donors over the age of 50, including Chisum.
“I think that our family is handling the loss so much better because she does live on,” Kida said.
Alice Matsumoto, Chisum’s mother, will turn 85 in a few weeks. She too is registered to be an organ donor.
“So many people we’ve talked to said, ‘Oh, we’re too old. We’re not going to sign up,’ or ‘My mother or parents said they’re too old.’ You’re never too old to donate to help somebody else,” she said.
“The oldest organ donation on record was actually into their 90s, if you can believe that,” said Wienand. “Organ donation is not where they’re limited. More than ever before, they can help to save lives.”
Nationwide, every 10 minutes someone is added to the waiting list for a transplant. In Hawaii, there are over 400 people who are in need of a life-saving transplant.
Kidneys are the number-one organ needed in our nation.
You can register to be an organ donor by checking “yes” to organ donation when you apply or renew your license or state ID at the DMV.
Legacy of Life Hawaii can come to your community group, church, agency or club and answer any questions you may have about organ donation. For a presentation, contact the organization at (808) 599-7630 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.