Michael Wilson is a Senior Tissue Recovery Coordinator for LifeLink of Georgia. He is responsible for performing physical assessments of donors, drawing blood, determining donor eligibility and on rare occasions, comforting family members who would like to spend time with their loved ones prior to a tissue recovery.
He has worked in the field of tissue banking for the last 15 years and finds his work to be extremely rewarding. “I began working as a surgical technician in a hospital before becoming a first assistant at a private orthopedic practice,” says Wilson. “A friend informed me about an open position within LifeLink’s tissue bank and the rest is history.”
Michael has been blessed to see both sides of the donation process throughout his career. “I can recall receiving tissue grafts from LifeLink when I worked for orthopedic surgeons and now I understand firsthand where those grafts came from.”
The job of a tissue recovery coordinator is not glamorous. Countless hours are spent recovering life-enhancing grafts and their work is done in the shadows. It is not unheard of for Michael and his colleagues to work for 12 to 24 hours on any given night to recover tissue grafts from donors. “This work can be strenuous and tiring. It takes a lot of time to understand the recovery process in the beginning but in the end the job is very rewarding.”
As a Senior Tissue Recovery Coordinator it is Michael’s job to train and mentor new hires. “Training should be quick. If a new hire continues to struggle after six weeks I will bring them in my office to review paperwork, discuss the reasons they are struggling and provide encouragement.”
Michael is one of many unsung heroes throughout the country who work in the shadows to ensure others have a chance to live a better life through tissue transplantation. We honor Michael and his colleagues for their tireless efforts to honor the wishes of tissue donors by helping to enhance lives.
Marco Canton’s daily routine includes getting up early to hit the gym five to six times a week and pursuing an associate degree as a registered dietetic technician. He’s very involved with his church and volunteers as an on-air radio personality for the church’s radio station. He’s close to his family and friends, and he loves spending time with them. In short: Marco leads a healthy, fulfilling life, but that wasn’t always the case.
As a teenager growing up in Costa Rica, Marco learned that he had diabetes. By the time his family moved to the U.S. in 1994, the disease had progressed so significantly that, in fact, Marco was left blind in his left eye.
“I remember going to sleep one night and when I woke up I was in the hospital. I had slipped into a diabetic coma,” says Marco.
As Marco’s health continued to decline, his kidneys shut down. In addition to taking insulin shots, his life depended on dialysis machines removing toxins a healthy kidney would normally clear from the body. Marco was on dialysis three times a week, for three hours each sitting.
In turn, the dialysis wasn’t enough and Marco became gravely ill; he was in desperate need of a kidney and pancreas transplant.
In October of 2008, through the generosity of a deceased donor, a complete stranger, Marco received his lifesaving transplants. His health improved almost immediately, and his life began to move forward again at full speed. For him, there was no going back.
Marco shares his story with the Latin American community in northern Nevada in the hopes individuals will register as donors. He is active with Ministerio Palabra de Vida (Word of Life Ministry) in Reno and has been interviewed about his experience during various radio segments.
“I have a strong faith, which has allowed me to be here to talk with others about organ and tissue donation. Anyone who registers as a donor needs to know that their decision can possibly change someone’s life. I am a living example of that.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrates the life of a great man and his ability to bring together an entire nation. Dr. King believed that we would eventually live in a society where the content of our character defined us: not the color of our skin. He believed that every person would and should have the same inalienable rights ensured by the constitution, and he put his life on the line to protect this ideal. From Selma, to Montgomery, to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King endured mass hatred, bigotry, ignorance, and a lack of personal safety – all in the name of equality. And, he did so selflessly.
On Monday, January 18, we celebrate this spirit of sacrifice and selflessness. We celebrate the life of a man who preached non-violence, fought for freedom and justice for all, and focused on the power of unconditional love.
And what of unconditional love? Where is its place in lifesaving and enhancing organ, eye and tissue donation?
One needn’t look any further for the answer than the donors and donor families in this county. In 2015 alone, more than 12,000 individuals gave the Gift of Life (deceased and living donation combined). More than 30,000 enhanced lives through tissue donation after passing, a no less heroic legacy, and in the decades prior, still more heroes made it possible for others to live.
Simply put: Donors epitomize unconditional love.
The same can be said of donor families who, in the depths of despair, on the most difficult day of their lives, exhibit unconditional love by consenting to organ donation or honoring the wishes of their loved ones. Not knowing where their loved one’s gifts will go, and knowing fully they’ll likely save complete strangers, unconditional love is exemplified.
Dr. King dreamed of a world where neighbors would help neighbors simply because it was the right thing to do – that members of our communities would help others, regardless of their race or religion, for no other reason than a responsibility to the betterment of mankind.
He once stated, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
Each day, donors and donor families in our nation and around the world answer that very question.
And they do so lovingly … selflessly … unconditionally.