Charles Armistead has a message. He wants you to hear it, see it, and live it. On Thanksgiving Day 2005, Armistead was UK HealthCare Transplant Center’s 300th liver transplant. His life hasn’t been the same since, and for that he is very thankful. He talks openly and enthusiastically about his experience, trying to convince others of the importance of signing up to be an organ donor.
Armistead, of Elkview, West Virginia, talks about two years ago when his life was much different. His wife of 37 years awoke to find him unresponsive, in a near comatose state, slumped over in the bathroom. Armistead had a condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, characterized by inflammation of the organ associated with the accumulation of fat in the liver. He had known about his condition for almost 15 years, but it had gotten worse very quickly. Doctors knew he needed a transplant soon.
That’s when his journey brought him to UK Chandler Hospital. Armistead received a donor liver in a 10-hour procedure, performed by Dr. Dinesh Ranjan and Dr. Thomas Johnston.
More than 600 Kentuckians wait
Armistead’s story is a familiar one. In Kentucky alone, more than 600 people are currently awaiting an organ transplant. A single donor can benefit up to 50 people by donating organs, including the kidney, heart, liver, lung, pancreas, and small bowel, as well as tissues, including bone, cartilage, skin, corneas, heart valves, veins, and ligaments.
“In all, more than 97,000 Americans are currently waiting for an organ as their only hope for life-saving treatment. A new person is added to the waiting list every 20 minutes. We want Kentuckians to understand the importance of becoming informed about organ/tissue donation and transplantation,” says Ashley Karathanasis, administrative director, UK Transplant Program.
Getting the message out
It’s a message that Armistead fully supports. So much so, that he drives around his native West Virginia hoping people ask him about it. His license plate proudly reads “UK 300th.”
“I’m an advocate for organ donation and UK’s transplant program. I selected this license plate hoping I would get a chance to explain to people why it’s so important to be a donor,” Armistead states.
Armistead says several people have stopped him, inquiring about the message behind the plate. “There’s nothing better you can give someone than the opportunity to extend their life. Organ donation and its impact are far-reaching, and only you can make the decision to do it.”
REGISTER AS A DONOR
Go to www.donatelifeky.org to “Register as a Donor,” under the new Kentucky Organ Donation Registry that began May 2007. The registry records in writing for the first time of your wishes to be a donor and provides secure information to organ procurement professionals only, 24 hours a day.
For more information about organ and tissue donation, contact Trust for Life online at www.trustforlife.org, (866) 945-LIFE (5433), or contact Kentucky Donor Organ Affiliates at www.kyorgandonor.org, (800) 525-3456.