JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (April 28, 2021) -- April is National Donate Life Month and Brooke Army Medical Center celebrated Blue/Green Spirit Week April 10-16, promoting the importance of registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor.
“There is a shortage of organ donors in the United States, nearly 110,000 patients are currently on the national waiting list and a new name is added every 10 minutes,” said Army Maj. (Dr.) Gilda Bobele, deputy director of the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit. “More than 7,000 of the patients waiting died last year before receiving organ donation because there aren’t enough organs to transplant.”
During the week, BAMC staff members planned activities to bring awareness to the need for organ donation, including chalk messages on the bridge from the parking garage and a rock garden inspiring hope for those in need of an organ transplant, donors and healthcare workers.
“When someone decides to be an organ donor, they can give eyes, skin, tissue and bone, essentially, affecting up to 75 lives with one donation,” explained Jennifer Lopez, registered nurse in the Emergency Department.
BAMC staff works closely with the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, San Antonio Eye Bank and the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center when someone meets the criteria for organ donation.
“In the emergency room, our role is to identify patients who meet that specific criteria. Then we notify the organ donation referral line,” Lopez said.
Once the referral line is notified, a representative from one of the three entities will come and speak with family members about donating their loved one’s organs and tissue. Even if the individual designates their wishes to become an organ donor on their driver’s license, the family has the option to decline.
“Some people think being an organ donor is a big process, but it’s simply letting your family know that you wish to donate your organs if that time comes,” Lopez explained. “It’s all about the patient’s wishes and we try to honor that. If your family is not aware of your wishes and they don’t support the organ donation, it will not happen.”
Dr. Audrey Sutton, a nurse educator at BAMC, received a double lung transplant in 1999.
“I’m a prime example of what that enormous gift of life can do,” Sutton said. “If that had not happened, I would have never gotten to do the things I have done, and see the things I have seen. One of my dreams is to meet my organ donor’s mother, so I can put my arms around her and tell her thank you.”
People can register to become an organ donor at https://www.donatelifetexas.org/bamc/.
Living Organ Donation
People can also choose to become a living donor. Medical science has made it possible to take a kidney or part of a liver from a living donor and transplant it into a person in need. This means that patients don't have to wait for years to receive a transplant while becoming more ill.
Sheratyn Phillips is currently waiting for a kidney donor. He was diagnosed with Glomerulonephritis at the age of 14.
Glomerulonephritis is inflammation of the tiny filters in the kidneys (glomeruli). Glomeruli remove excess fluid, electrolytes and waste from the bloodstream and pass them into the urine. Glomerulonephritis occurs on its own or as part of another disease, such as lupus or diabetes.
Severe or prolonged inflammation associated with glomerulonephritis can damage the kidneys.
At the age of 21 Phillips suffered renal failure and was put on dialysis three times a week. Now 31, he wants to start a family and a career.
“Ever since I started dialysis it’s been a struggle,” Phillips said. “I feel like I’ve been a stagnant pool of water. I’ve wanted to start a family and have a career, but because I have to go to dialysis three days a week everything is on hold. It’s been really hard for me. I have developed depression and had multiple other problems occur while on dialysis.”
Phillips’s mother, Karen Verdier, works in the Logistics Department at BAMC.
“I can’t be a living donor because of my health conditions,” she said. “But, we are trying to do everything as a family to help him. I think there is a stigma about being a living donor. What people need to understand is that you can still function as a full human being.”
“It’s been a really rough go for me, but I’m trying to stay optimistic and luckily, I have a very strong support group,” Phillips said. “If I could get a transplant that would completely change my life. It would allow me to work and support my family as normal people do. I don’t feel normal at this point. With this disease holding me back it feels like I can’t be who I naturally should be as a person.”