Going through the transplant process is difficult, both physically and emotionally.
The "Close to the Heart" Transplant Support Group helps those throughout the county to deal with the experience. Group President Debbie Sumner said April is donate Life Month and provides an opportunity for people to look at the issues surrounding transplants.
At 13, Sumner said her son Josh had a double lung transplant. He lived with chronic lung disease, she said, and passed away while still a teen.
The group started in Oct. 1999, Sumner said, and gives emotional support to those who have received transplants and their family. It gives them contact, she said, and lets them know others have survived transplants.
Speakers from the Center for Organ Recovery and Education meet with the group, Sumner said, and also educate the public about donations of organs and tissue. There are around 15 members now, she said, and the transplants they have dealt with range from livers to hearts.
"Transplants are more common than people think," Sumner said. "Quite a few in the county have had one."
Advances in technology allow for more procedures, Sumner said, but that number should still be higher. There are not enough donors, she said, and people die every day while waiting.
For those who would like to donate, Sumner said the most important thing is to sign a donor card. Also, she said talking with family about the decision will prevent any surprises to them.
People hold quite a few misconceptions about donations, Sumner said, such as emergency responders don't work to save donors in the event of an accident. Nobody even considers if the patient is a donor, she said, until death is iminent or the patient is on life support.
According to Sumner, some people have asked her what happens if they need their organs. Though she has a hard time understanding what they mean by that, she said she assures them God will give them new ones if they need them.
Some also believe the body will not be able to be viewed in a casket, Sumner said, although this is also untrue. Donating offers many benefits, she said, as she has been able to witness.
After her son passed away, Sumner said his corneas were donated. As a result, she said she received a letter explaining his gift has meant a baby born blind can now see.
Although one person dies, Sumner said parts of that person can go on. Around 18 people die each day waiting on the transplant list, she said, and the list includes over 111,000 people.
"If people are not willing to donate, all those wonderful organs go to waste," Sumner said.
When talking to people about donations, Sumner said she asks how they would feel if their children needed transplants. For anybody wishing to contact the group, she said she can be reached at .