Organ donation a pressing need in Mississippi

Published 11:30 am Friday, August 22, 2014

Amy Barrentine lost her daughter, Justyce Hutto, two years ago Sunday at the age of 15 to complications from spina bifida.

On Wednesday, she learned the best part of her lived on inside another child, thanks to organ donation.

“It was the best way for her to live on,” Barrentine told the Vicksburg Lions Club as she shared an address bill with Chuck Stinson, marketing director for MORA/Donate Life Mississippi.

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Barrentine told her daughter’s story as a backdrop for organ recovery efforts in the state.

“Justyce’s heart went to a 9-year-old child in Missouri,” Barrentine said. “She is going into the sixth grade and doing wonderful.”

Stinson said the need for organ donations is on the rise in Mississippi and nationwide compared to five years ago.

“More than 1,400 in Mississippi are in need of a life-saving transplant,” Stinson said. “More than 124,000 in the U.S. need one. Five years ago, it was 100,000.

“With the problems with healthcare in Mississippi, that number is continuing to grow.”

Stinson encouraged more Mississippians to become organ donors and addressed myths that life-saving measures wouldn’t be followed for those who do.

“It is a first-person consent now,” he said, referring to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 2008, which made the choice of becoming an organ donor in Mississippi strictly that of the person. “We want you to be at peace with this decision. It makes the whole process go a little smoother.”

Barrentine said the decision to preserve her daughter’s organs was a personal one.

“There’s an elderly lady who received one of her kidneys who is doing fine, and there’s a gentleman in Michigan (who received an organ),” she said.

A loose acronym for Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency, the nonprofit group is the federally designated organ procurement organization for most of the state of Mississippi and among 59 such organizations nationwide. Additionally, MORA works in cooperation with the Mississippi Lions Eye Bank to provide tissue recovery services.

After a physician has determined a patient is brain-dead, the group is called in to talk with family, offer opinions and answer questions.

The state’s organ donor registry is up to 680,000, with 95 percent of the figure coming from registrations via driver’s licenses issued by the Department of Public Safety, Stinson said.

In 2013, there were 70 organ donors in the state and 142 who donated tissue such as skin, heart valves, certain veins, bones, tendons, ligaments and corneas, Stinson said.