Roses Promote Donate Life Effort, Long Beach, California
By Ashleigh Oldland | Gazettes
Her grandpa’s successful heart transplant is what inspired Megan Thornburg to start a Donate Life Club at Wilson High School and work with other groups from around the country to build the Donate Life Float for last week’s Rose Parade.
“I mostly helped prepare the flowers for the float and I donated a rose — I dedicated it to my grandpa and the donor who helped save his life,” she said.
Thornburg founded her high school’s Donate Life Club, which functions as an arm of the national Donate Life nonprofit alliance, to help get the word out to her peers that they should sign up as organ donors when they get their driver’s licenses.
“I have met a lot of great people who say their lives have been saved because someone checked yes at the DMV,” said the 16-year-old, who is registered as a donor.
“I know having my grandpa around is because someone donated their organs for him and saved his life.”
Wilson’s Donate Life Club started meeting once a month in the fall, and Thornburg said its 20 members plan to set up information booths and bring guest speakers to the school so that students can make informed decisions about being organ donors.
Thornburg’s grandpa, Jo Darga, had been on the transplant waiting list for years before a donor was found. Weighing only 104 pounds and unable to sit up for more than 15 minutes, he was suffering from a virus that was decaying his heart and would eventually end his life. But in June 2002, Darga received a donated heart that has kept him above ground eight years later.
“Now I’m as healthy as anyone 76 years old,” he said. “I received the heart of a 42-year-old Hispanic man from Stockton. So that means I am part Polish, part German and have a Mexican heart — it is just awesome. Words cannot describe how wonderful it is to be alive.”
He and his granddaughter both say they feel their mission is to get as many people to register as organ donors as possible so that someone else can experience what they experienced.
“After I received this heart, I felt compelled to promote organ donation,” Darga said. “I wouldn’t be able to see Megan do all the things she is doing if I hadn’t received this heart… One person can save up to eight people’s lives with organ donation, and then of course one person can enhance up to 50 people’s lives with eye and tissue donations such as skin, bone and heart valves.”
Darga, who lives in Santa Barbara, has been working with the Donate Life organization since his successful transplant and even rode on the Donate Life Float at the Rose Parade two years ago.
He said the primary reason some people still aren’t registered as donors is because there is a lack of knowledge and many myths and misconceptions about organ donation.
“If people really understood the process and the laws in place to prevent selling or removing organs before a person is dead… Most of the people against donation are uneducated about the process,” he said. “That is why it is so important we talk to the youth. They can learn and make an informed decision about organ donation while they are on the verge of getting their driver’s licenses.”