April is National Donate Life Month, and Montana governor Greg Gianforte is recognizing a Blackfeet man, John Davis, who died in 2020 and whose organs are helping others.
"It was very touching for me,” said John’s father, Tim, about the recognition.
Tim and his wife Debra were pleasantly surprised when they learned John's decision to be an organ donor would be recognized by Montana's governor. "Very appreciative of that,” Tim said.
John took his own life in March of 2020. Tim said, "He had indications of mental illness that we didn't understand, we didn't know."
At a ceremony scheduled for April 29 organized by LifeCenter Northwest, Gianforte will thank organ donors and recognize their families. He'll also send each family a signed certificate of appreciation.
Tim and Debra said prior to John's death they weren't aware he had decided to be an organ donor. "I said, 'Let's just bury his heart at Heart Butte where his grandfather, his grandmother and his baby brother are buried and some of his other relatives.' Great grandfather, grandmother, aunts and uncles and so forth, cousins. We were ready to just leave and go home and take care of the arrangements,” Tim said. "Then we were told he had just reaffirmed his organ donation in January when he turned 30. So we kind of stopped and had a discussion and we said 'That's what he wanted.' Legally, he was an adult so we honored his wish."
John's heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys have given life to five people.
"He loved everybody and he was civic-minded. He cared about trying to deal with some of the issues in our community,” Debra said. "He was very outgoing, brave and kind,” Tim added.
WEB EXTRA - extended interview:
His decision to donate his organs will not be forgotten. Debra said, "I'm an organ donor. I don't know how long I've had that on my driver's license, but I never did discuss it with John."
She explained, "When he died, we all kind of thought 'Well, we need to rethink this, I need to rethink this. Do I want to keep that on there?' My youngest son, he's (an organ donor.) He said 'Yes, we're going to continue to leave that on our driver's license,’” Debra said.
The Montana Suicide Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, or you can text “MT” to 741741. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The LifeCenter Northwest website provides the following information:
- Currently, there are more than 108,000 people in the United States on the transplant waiting list, including nearly 2,300 of our Northwest neighbors, and sadly 22 of those people die every day. Talking to your loved ones about donation and knowing the facts is the most influential way to spread the word about the beneficial impact of organ, eye, and tissue donation.
- Myth: I could not be a donor due to age or a medical condition. Fact: Anyone can register their choice to be a donor. No matter your age or health, some of your organs or tissues may be perfectly suitable for transplant. In order for a patient to be eligible for organ donation, they do need to be on ventilated support at the time of their death, and it must occur in a hospital. Upon referral by hospital staff, a recovery organization will evaluate each person individually to determine whether donation is a possibility. Tissue and cornea donation may still be an option if a death occurs outside of a hospital.
- Myth: Medical professionals won’t try to save my life. Fact: Hospital and emergency personnel are only concerned with saving your life. They do not have access to the confidential donor registry database to even check for donor registration, nor do they make any determination as to whether someone is able to donate. LifeCenter Northwest’s medical team will assess for donation suitability only after all life-saving measures and treatments have been given and death has been declared.
- Myth: My race or ethnicity doesn’t really matter for donation. Fact: We must work to overcome the myth that race or ethnicity doesn’t really matter for donation. The fact is that organ and tissue transplantation is not constrained by race or ethnicity; however, transplant success rates increase when organs are matched between members of similar race and ethnicity with similar genetic composition. Currently, ethnic minorities are in desperate need of more organ, eye, and tissue donors as they represent over 58% of the national organ transplant waiting list, but make up only 33% of actual donors.