RACINE — Colette Shumpert’s son, Michael, was shot and killed in December 2012 in Milwaukee. She remembers praying at Froedtert Hospital for Michael’s life to have purpose and meaning, whether or not he survived that day.
About an hour before Michael passed away, she found out about that he had registered to be an organ donor. Shumpert was happy about that, but she didn’t tell her family members of her son’s decision, fearing they might not approve.
“My grandmother is old school, believing what you came with is what you leave with,” Shumpert said, but she disagreed. “Michael’s life has enhanced the lives of 11 other people (through organ donation) as of today … his life lives on 5 1/2 years later.”
Shumpert shared her story with more than 100 attendees on Sunday at Festival Hall, 5 Fifth Street. She was one of the featured speakers and panel members at an event aimed at spreading awareness and busting misconceptions regarding blood, organ and tissue donation, followed by a gospel music celebration.
“There’s a lot of myths about organ donation,” Cindy Huber, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin, told The Journal Times. “The ability to speak with people one on one or in a group like this, we’re able to communicate in a way that a brochure can never do.”
Here is some of the information panelists shared:
- Although individuals cannot personally register to be an organ donors until they are 15½ years old, both newborns and the elderly can donate organs. There is no age minimum or maximum.
- Donated organs are given to the “sickest person, nearest by.” However, if an exact match is found, living donors can choose to give their organ to a specific recipient, such as a kidney transplant. The oldest American ever to donate an organ was 92 years old — a man from Texas who died of a brain hemorrhage donated his liver.
- Most anyone is able to donate organs, even if they are sick. The only “total rule-out” exception would be someone who has active cancer, according to a Blood Center panelist.
- Organ donation does not prevent someone from having an open-casket funeral.
- Families of an organ donor and families of a recipient can be connected, but only if both families agree beforehand.
- One tissue donor can help up to 75 people.
“What I wanted to do was bring awareness of the need to the community,” Lisa Parham said.
Parham coordinated the event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Racine Mirror, the positive-emphasis community newspaper of which Parham is editor in chief.
She said she felt it was especially important to bring this message to minority communities, since its members are much less likely to be donors.
According to the Office of Minority Health (a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), black Americans made up only 13.5 percent of U.S. organ donors in 2015, despite making up nearly 30 percent of organ waiting lists. In 2016, the National Kidney Foundation reported that minorities have a higher chance of kidney disease and kidney failure, meaning that there is an even greater need of donors from those communities.
After Q&A session ended, the gospel celebration began.
It included prayer led by Evangelist Darlean Parham of Calvary Memorial Church, 4001 Washington Ave., and music from gospel artists, including the Joshua’s Troop choir from Chicago.