New Life for Others

by Katherine A. Perham-Hester
(Published in the July/August 2000 issue of "Lutheran Parent" from Northwestern Publishing House)

"Give Life. Give Blood." You may have seen the bumper stickers. Have you ever considered the significance of these words? People who volunteer for approximately 40 minutes of their time to donate a pint of blood are giving new life to others. In fact, because the blood donated is separated into three components, a single donation can give three people the gift of life. Just what does it mean for a Christian to be a blood, tissue or organ donor?

We are only strangers here in this life; heaven is our home. Jesus donated his life so that we could be with him eternally. If your Savior called you home today, would your family know your wishes about donation? We need to have ready answers. Did you know that a recent federal regulation requires that all hospital deaths be reported to a transplant team?

I can't remember talking about organ and blood donations with my parents when I was young. It came up in later conversations when the issue was affecting friends. When my mother died of cancer four years ago, the organization "Life Alaska" called my father to ask about organ and tissue donation. We didn't hesitate to say yes. Mom had always been an organ donor.

In her last months, I remember her lamenting the fact that she wished she could help others through her death. She didn't know then that even though cancer had consumed her body, she was fully capable of giving new life to others. Her corneas went to two people whose eyesight was improved. A section of her knee went for medical research, which has just recently perfected a new kind of arthroscopic surgery.

Two months after Mom passed away; a car hit my five-year-old niece. She died shortly thereafter. Her parents made the timely decision to donate her organs to others. In my niece's case, incredibly, no matches were found for her vital organs. Since organ transplantation is time-sensitive process, the next step is to use items that are not dependent on being used quickly; examples are the corneas and heart stem valves. These, along with skin for research, are what my niece was able to contribute.

All of us have heard about the shortage of donors and the long lists or persons awaiting transplants. The need for donors is great. Impress on your children the importance of blood, organ and tissue donation. Start by donating your own blood or organizing a blood drive at your church.

Life-changing events can draw people closer to their Lord, even those who may not know him personally yet. Unbelievers who are the recipients of either blood, organ or tissue donations are granted a second chance at life. They still have time to come to know their Savior. We still have time to bring them the only truth on earth that can make them right with God.

Say a prayer of thanks for all potential donors. Pray also for the recipients of blood, tissue, and organ donations. Ask God to help them make good use of the second chance at life they have been given. And, if you haven't done so already, consider donating blood and commit to making tissue and organ donations. Your commitment could make an eternal difference for someone in need."

Kathy Perham-Hester is a member of Faith Lutheran in Anchorage, Alaska. This article is dedicated to the memory of her mother, Sandra N. Perham (1938-1994), and her niece, Cory R. Koenig (1989-1995).