CHICAGO (CBS) — Does your family know if you’d like to be an organ donor? It’s not exactly a conversation you’d have over breakfast.
As National Donate Life Month wraps up, the Morning Insiders take you inside a mother’s decision -full of pain and pride. CBS 2’s Lauren Victory shares her food for thought.
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Baby Ra’Nya Aamira was mom LaNetha Guider’s biggest and cutest surprise.
“She was just literally my best friend,” said Guider, who shared a video of her smiling little pal on Ra’Nya’s last day alive before a speeding and under the influence driver smashed into their car in July 2020.
“They were hoping, because she was still so young, that she would recover or they would see some brain activity,” Guider said.
There were no miracles for Ra’Nya at Comer Children’s Hospital, but mom did find a blessing there, when approached by members of the Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network.
“Just sitting in the hospital and watching my baby suffer, I thought about other mothers or people or who see their [sick] loved ones and they feel hopeless,” said Guider who chose to donate her 4-month-old’s organs.
Ra’Nya is one 860 pediatric organ donors in 2020 – kids under the age of 18 who saved 1,700 other children.
“They [organ recipients] could have another 30, 40, 50 years of their life ahead of them,” said Dr. Harry Wilkins, a former trauma surgeon, who now serves as CEO of Gift of Hope, which organizes transplants across most of Illinois and parts of Northwest Indiana.
The organization was able to connect Ra’Nya’s heart and lungs with two sick babies. Her kidneys went to a 27-year-old.
The transplants came at a crucial time. Donations from all ages, but especially kids, took a hit during the pandemic.
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“When everything shut down, kids weren’t in school as much. You know, the number one cause of pediatric death is accidental injury,” said Dr. Wilkins.
Guider calls the decision to donate her daughter’s organs a “no brainer.”
“What other or better way to honor her than to give somebody else the gift of life?” she said.
That thought fuels her through her grief. So did a letter from the family who received Ra’Nya’s lungs.
“When I opened it – I can’t explain the feeling. Just to know that she’s still giving me gifts and she’s not here,” Guider said.
She understands some people might be mistrustful of the organ donation process, but adds that you can’t dispute this fact: Ra’Nya is living on through others.
More than 107,000 adults and children were on the national transplant waiting list as of February 2021. Approximately 90 percent of American adults support organ donation, but only 60 percent are signed up as donors.
A sign-up is considered “first-person consent,” and makes your decision to donate legally binding.
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Sometimes those wishes go haywire. CBS 2 dug into the problem of transporting life-saving organs earlier this month, and profiled the organization working to better track the precious cargo, much like you’d track your rideshare or pizza delivery.