Walkers offer hope to the nearly 200 Wyoming residents currently waiting for a lifesaving transplant
For the first time, Wyoming families of organ, eye and tissue donors and transplant recipients will participate in the annual Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Parade in downtown Casper on Tuesday, July 8. The Donate Life Wyoming parade entry, “Wyoming’s Transplant Waiting List,” will use walkers and balloons to represent the 184 Wyoming residents waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant and the five waiting for the gift of sight through corneal transplants. Donate Life Wyoming is the donor registry for the state, managed by Donor Alliance, the federally designated, non-profit organ procurement organization serving most of Wyoming.
“This year’s parade theme, ‘United We Stand,’ is a wonderful representation of the work we do to save lives through organ and tissue donation and transplantation,” said Andrea Smith, Donor Alliance Director of PR/Communications. “Donor Alliance stands united with the 184 Wyoming residents currently listed for a lifesaving organ transplant and all those in need of cornea and tissue transplants. We hope our entry can be a reminder to the Wyoming community: there is no greater kindness than giving the gift of life. Just one donor can save or enhance more than 100 lives through organ, eye and tissue donation.”
There will be 30 participants in the Donate Life Wyoming parade entry, carrying a total of 159 Donate Life balloons, to represent the 189 Wyoming residents currently waiting for an organ or corneal transplant. Participants will include individuals whose loved ones made the decision to donate and transplant recipients who benefitted from donation. The group will be made up of many moving stories of hope and support, including:
- Rhonda Hill, kidney and pancreas recipient, Lander, WY: Rhonda developed juvenile diabetes as a teenager. Decades later, when her kidneys began to fail, physicians placed her on a restrictive diet and she began using an insulin pump. Ultimately, she needed dialysis and was listed for a kidney/pancreas transplant at the age of 38. As she waited, Rhonda’s health continued to decline. Nonetheless, she stayed active pursuing her passion for animals and advocating for organ donation. After 18 months of waiting, the call for her transplant came. Now Rhonda takes every opportunity to thank donor families whose generosity allow recipients like her to keep living and giving.
- Patricia Thomas, donor mother, Cody, WY: Patricia has made it her life’s mission to promote organ and tissue donation in memory of her daughter, Kathleen, who became a cornea donor after her death in 2008. Patricia was especially touched after learning that a previously blind woman from Japan was the recipient of one of Kathleen’s corneas, which restored her sight. Patricia wants others to understand how organ, eye and tissue donation can save or improve lives. She knows that her daughter would be proud and supportive of her work.
- Laura Kurtz, mother of a patient who died waiting, Powell, WY: Laura’s daughter, Summer Bell, was on the waiting list for a double lung transplant due to pulmonary fibrosis. Sadly, due to the shortage of organs available for transplant, Summer’s wait was too long and she died while waiting for the gift of life. Summer was 31 years old.
- Gary Loghry, donor son, Casper, WY: Gary has worked as a donation consultant for Donor Alliance for seven years and in the donation community for 26. In his role, he educates medical professionals on how to facilitate the donation discussion with families and teaches hospital staff throughout Wyoming about the donation process. In September of 2013, Gary’s work became more personal when his father, Hal, a retired biology teacher and life-long blood donor, died suddenly. Gary then experienced firsthand what donation was like as a family member, as Hal was able to give lifesaving and healing tissue to many.
Also walking in the parade will be Donor Alliance staff and volunteers, who facilitate the miracle of donation and transplantation in Wyoming and Colorado, as well as staff from Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank and Wyoming Medical Center.
The Donate Life Wyoming float entry will be a moving sight, with each of the 189 Wyoming residents on the waiting list represented by a blue or green Donate Life balloon or a walker. The group hopes that the cumulative display will demonstrate just how many in the Wyoming community are in need. Those personally impacted by organ, eye and tissue donation will lead the group with a banner that reads, “United We Stand with Patients on the Transplant Waiting List.”
The Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Parade takes place from 10 AM-noon on July 8 in downtown Casper.
Join the 59 percent of Wyoming residents who have registered to be organ, eye and tissue donors. For more information about organ and tissue donation, please visit DonorAlliance.org. To register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, please visit DonateLifeWyoming.org or call 888-868-4747 for more information.