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Working miracles for Mississippians — State's organ recovery agency saves lives

 Liz Wroten listens to her son’s heartbeat, which was transplanted into Linda Amos of Florence in 2011. Chase Wroten was 19 when he died of a stroke, but his family donated his organs — both kidneys, the spleen, heart, liver, lungs and pancreas — for transplants.


Liz Wroten listens to her son’s heartbeat, which was transplanted into Linda Amos of Florence in 2011. Chase Wroten was 19 when he died of a stroke, but his family donated his organs — both kidneys, the spleen, heart, liver, lungs and pancreas — for transplants.

You don’t always get the miracles you want, said Liz Wroten, whose son, Chase Wroten, died suddenly from a massive stroke suffered while pitching for the baseball team at Hinds Community College on April 15, 2011.

“We would have wanted our son to recover,” Wroten said. “But we knew he was on life support and wasn’t going to recover. My husband, Mike, is a Hinds County deputy sheriff. At the time Mike worked with another deputy sheriff, David Cox, who was on dialysis and we knew he would have died within a year without a new kidney. We had signed papers with the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency (MORA) to donate Chase’s organs. If there could be a match, we wanted David to get his kidney. But it is rare that there is a tissue match when a family specifies the person they want to get the organ. When they ran tissue tests, David Cox was number one on the list for matching. So, it was a miracle. David is doing great.”

The Wrotens donated all of their son’s internal organs: Both kidneys, the spleen, heart, liver, lungs and pancreas.

“Our philosophy is just because our son’s life stopped suddenly, that didn’t mean we couldn’t help other people live on,” Wroten said. “God gave doctors the ability to do transplants, and I think what they do is a little bit of a miracle. Nothing is harder than losing a child. But so many other blessings have come from my son’s death, and that is how you have to look at it.”

Certainly the woman who received Chase’s heart considers it a miracle that she is not just alive, but has enough energy to play with her grandchildren and work at her church. Linda Amos, 58, Florence, was down to her heart operating at only 15 percent of normal capacity when she received the heart of a 19 year old on April 15, 2011.

“I was always short of breath, and couldn’t walk any distance,” she said. “I couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do. Now I can do mostly whatever I want to do. My heart is in good condition. I feel great. People tell me I look better now than before my heart attack. I’m able to do more with my grandbabies, and do more at my church. At church they tell me I do so much, they can’t keep up with me. I feel like I want to give back more because the Lord has blessed me.”

Amos used to be opposed to donating her organs because her grandmother said, “I’m going to leave this world with all my parts.” But Amos’ son, who worked at a funeral home, said no one would know if she donated an organ.

“Since the Lord blessed me with this gift from Chase, I have a new outlook on it,” Amos said. “My mentality now is you should be a donor because it helps someone else to live on. There is nothing else you can do for me after I’m dead.”

Organ transplant is more common than many people might think. In 2013, 229 organs from 70 donors were transplanted through MORA. The agency’s CEO, Kevin Stump, said more than 200 people (some received multiple organs: Example a kidney-pancreas transplant) across Mississippi and in the U.S. received those lifesaving gifts. MORA also had 142 tissue donors in 2013. One tissue donor can help enhance the lives of up to 50 people.

People in the business community can help by promoting employees signing up to be organ donors.

“We are always looking for business partners to help promote our mission, either through workplace partnerships or just inviting us to company health fairs or lunch and learn sessions,” Stump said. “We want to get the word out that more than 1,300 Mississippians are in need of a life-saving transplant. Those are people who are your friends, your neighbors, co-workers and church members.”

MORA recently received a $33,000 donation from Nucor Steel. The money was raised from their fund raising record-setting 11th annual golf tournament that was held in September.

“In those 11 years, they have raised over $500,000 dollars for local charities,” Stump said. “We were one of four local charities that Nucor Steel gave to this year. The money has been designated to help build our Donor Tribute Garden that will be the third phase of our campus construction plans at our headquarters in Flowood. The second phase will be the addition of on-campus recovery suites that we hope to break ground on later this year. Over time, the suites will help reduce the cost of recovery and transplants.”

Nationally someone is added to the transplant list every 10 minutes and 18 people on the national waiting list die every day. Stump said donated organs can give a child a life, allow a mom to see her child married, or allow a grandparent to see grandchildren born.

The simplest way to register to be an organ donor is when you renew your driver’s license. More than 90 percent of those registered do it this way. People can also register online at msora.org or at donatelifems.org. People can also sign up at a health fair or community event attended by a MORA representative.

MORA, one of 58 organ procurement agencies across the county, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

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