CSU holds ceremony supporting organ donation
In a private ceremony on Friday morning, representatives from Charleston Southern University and Sharing Hope SC shared testimonials and support of organ donation. CSU staff, faculty and students from nursing, physician assistant and public health programs attended.
Current CSU public health major Laura Shelanskey, who serves as vice president of the Public Health Club and interns for Sharing Hope SC, credited Sharing Hope SC for educating and inspiring her and others on the topic of organ donation.
“They have introduced me to all the gifts that God has enabled us to give both during life and after. There are certain gifts that we can’t bring with us, and [organ donation] is truly the best gift that we can give,” Shelanskey said.
Sharing Hope SC, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing organ, eye and tissue donation in South Carolina for transplantation and research, provides education, emotional support to families, and are the organ and tissue recovery organization for the state. During the month of April, the organization travels throughout the state to celebrate National Donate Life Month—educating the communities they serve on donation.
“Charleston Southern University joins unprecedented amount of support—60 healthcare facilities and more than 15 universities are honoring the gift of life and helping us celebrate the thousands of South Carolinians who have been saved by donation,” said Ian Dyke, public education coordinator for Sharing Hope SC. “CSU has some of our favorite graduates. Your nurses all across the state are making the gift of life possible. They are saying ‘yes’ to being advocates for donation and going above and beyond their job duties to refer and save lives through donation.”
Dyke added that everyone is touched by the gift of donation in some way.
“In 2020, despite the pandemic, the mission of organ donation continued. It saved more than 39,000 lives from organ donation. It gave 50,000 Americans sight from cornea donation. It healed more than 1 million people through tissue donation. The impact of donation is all around us. Thank you guys for helping us celebrate that today,” he said.
South Carolina organ recipient Everett German carried the Torch of Life at the ceremony in the courtyard outside of CSU’s health science building complex. The torch passed throughout the state at other ceremonies this month as a symbol of donation.
German received the sacrificial gift of a kidney from his own personal hero 10 years ago. After God, German said the second most important person to him is his hero—who happens to be his sister.
“It’s such a selfless act that I can’t begin to say enough of someone who has that mindset to donate,” said German. His journey began 15 years ago when he began having headaches and blurred vision. Ultimately, after several tests, he found out his kidneys were functioning at only 12 percent.
“Kidney disease is a silent assassin,” he said of his experience. After several months, his kidney function dropped to 5 percent. Before going public with his needs, he sent his family a mass text message explaining his urgent medical situation and asked if anyone would be willing to test for a potential kidney match.
Both of German’s sisters immediately said yes. One was a match—Charlene.
“To this day, I could never repay her enough for what she did. She literally gave me a second chance at life,” German said. “I often tell people, ‘Be a hero. You never know the impact.’”
Two staff members at CSU also shared their personal stories with organ donation. Jessica Morris, admissions coordinator for CSU’s physician assistant program, shared how her family has been blessed with donation twice. First, a kidney donation for her 32-year-old uncle, who suffered 10 years of dialysis and several years on the transplant list. And, again when her husband’s grandmother received a heart transplant at age 70. Both family members are now healthy and thriving.
“It serves as a reminder to [our family] just how purposeful choosing to be an organ donor can be. We are ever indebted to the families of the donors who granted us more time with our loved ones,” said Morris. “It’s not lost on us that with our great joy comes great sorrow for others.”
Stephanie Schley, executive assistant in the PA Program, shared the same sentiments after telling the story of her aunt’s battle with liver disease as well as liver and kidney failure. Due to the persistence of her aunt’s surgeon, her aunt received organ donation.
Schley said, “Because of an organ donor, we received our hope: a life-saving liver for my aunt. I can’t describe to you how much it means—what that donation means—to me and my family, but I do hope that you might choose to be a donor and be the cause of hope for someone else.”
President Dondi Costin closed the ceremony signing a proclamation that April is Donate Life Month in the state of South Carolina and at CSU. He added, “In strictly human terms, there is no act that is more like Jesus Christ than giving your life for another. Or at least giving your life in such a way that others can live longer and have a productive and healthier, meaningful, rewarding life.”