Monica Witherspoon, 36, is living proof that an organ donor can help save someone’s life. In her case, the recipient is her mother, 63-year-old Marilyn Witherspoon.
The 2019 procedure was done at SLU Hospital, which recently partnered with Mid-America Transplant to promote National Minority Donor Awareness Month in August.
“For me, the decision to give my mom a kidney was a no-brainer,” she said.
Witherspoon advocates for others to become donors, and believes there is a need for more conversation on the topic.
“As African Americans, we don’t talk about our health situations. You would be amazed at how many people are willing to help and donate,” Witherspoon said.
The lack of education concerning organ donation also contributes to the problem, Witherspoon explained. She encourages others to do the research and take part in helping others.
“The biggest thing I say to people is to educate yourself on the organ donation process,” Witherspoon said.
“I guess because it was my mother that I never had a fear of what would happen to me.”
Witherspoon’s biggest concern was, what if she donated her kidney to her mother, it wouldn’t work, and she would pass away.
“It hurt me to my core,” Witherspoon said.
“But that’s why I have faith in God to believe that it would work. Even if the worst had happened, I still had to try.”
During an Aug. 25, 2021 event at SLU, MAT volunteers shared donor information, including how every donor can save eight lives and that an estimated 60,125 registrations were added to the National Transplant Waiting List in 2020.
Nikki Love-McIntyre, a SLU Hospital patient access representative, received a pancreas and kidney in 2015 at the hospital.
“There are more people dying daily than are being saved with these organs, so we need people to register to donate,” Love-McIntyre said.
The nation is facing a significant organ shortage for life-saving transplants. Almost 107,000 men, women and children are on the national transplant waiting list. Sadly, 17 people die each day waiting for a match and transplant.
“I provide information to dispel the myths and help people make an informed decision on whether or not they would like to donate,” Love-McIntyre said.
According to Love-McIntyre, common myths include “that people cannot have an open casket funeral” or “if your driver’s license says you are an organ donor, that doctors would refuse to treat you.”
“One lady came to our table and said she would not donate an organ, so I asked her ‘what if it was for her child?’ She said she would, but then I asked her what if she couldn’t do so and her child needed this life-saving organ,” Love-McIntyre said.
“That’s when she understood.”
She encourages others to register as organ donors and says, “Let your last act of selflessness be to donate.”