Gift of Life Michigan: Striving to Have a Greater Impact in the Lives of Black and Brown People

 

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor stands with Sonya and John Edmond while they hold a proclamation and resolution to celebrate Amaia Alysse Edmond Gift of Life Day, who was murdered in 2010. To the far right, Lansing City Councilmember Patricia Spitzley worked with the Gift of Life and others to honor the young victim and the families that work tirelessly to inform the community about organ donation.

Photo courtesy of the Gift of Life Michigan

 

By Deborah Walker

There is hope for families who are dealing with the tragic loss of a loved one. Through the Gift of Life, organs and tissue of the deceased are donated to give recipients a second chance at living. Miranda Burton Hinton, said her son, Marcus Jackson-Burton was able to save many lives through the Gift of Life.

There was a Gift of Life event held at the Lansing City Hall on Friday, August 27th, 2021, to celebrate a resolution regarding the Amaia Alysse Edmond Gift of Life Day. The Amaia Alysse Edmond Memorial was founded by her father, John Edmond, in 2010 after her passing.

Burton Hinton also spoke at the event at City Hall.

“My son was taken away on August 3rd, 2020, and I came today because I want to celebrate his life. In doing that it gives me the opportunity to know that his legacy and his spirit still lives on through the Gift of Life,” she said.

Burton Hinton said the Gift of Life’s importance is rooted in its ability to save so many lives in a time of extreme tragedy. She said that she had previously signed up to be an organ donor but did not know Marcus had decided to become a donor as well.

“He and I had talked about it, and I was telling him that I had signed up to be a donor and if something ever happened to me this is what I expected them to do. I showed him my license where I had a little heart and everything on the back of it,” she stated.

Burton Hinton did not find out about her son’s decision until she was informed by a doctor. He told her how special Marcus was and explained that her son was a Gift of Life donor. “With my son’s body being in the condition that it was, [they] were pretty much able to use everything. His heart, his liver, his kidneys, his pancreas, and they also used bone marrow and tissue. I am so proud of him, and he is an amazing young man… I speak about him as in the [present] tense because through his Gift of Life, he’s still living and that’s important to me,” said Burton Hinton.

There was a comedy show in honor of Marcus who was an up and coming comedian held at the J.W. Sexton football stadium on Saturday, August 28th. All of the proceeds went to the Marcus da Comedian Foundation.

Burton Hinton said this year at Christmas, the focus will be on teenagers due to the increase in violence in the Lansing area.

She added, “Because so often there are toy drives, the little kids are the ones who see so many presents. But the bigger kids and the teenagers, they’re always left out. This year our focus is going to be our teenagers.”

Burton Hinton is proud to be a donor herself. If she can help others she will, she proclaimed. “In the Bible, God always wants us to help others. Help your brother-man if you see that he’s in need, and I know for me the Bible says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. So, I don’t need any of these earthly things. I don’t need any of my organs and tissue when I’m gone.”

Allison Gillum, Community Relations Coordinator for the Gift of Life Michigan said, “We work closely with the hospitals in the state, as well as, the family members of individuals who have passed away and [have] given the gifts of organ donations and tissue donation.”

The Gift of Life helps to facilitate the donation process so that patients who need organs and tissue can receive them. They act as stewards to get vital tissues and organs to those that need them.

Organ donation is rare Gillum explained. About one or two percent of the population meets the criteria to donate organs. She added that people who would be eligible to be an organ donor are going to be people who have suffered some sort of traumatic brain injury and are on a ventilator in a hospital. So that’s just a small number of people.”

If an individual meets the criteria, then the hospital staff will contact the Gift of Life who then checks to see if the person is a donor or not, said Gillum. If the individual is not a donor, the Gift of Life will approach the family and ask for permission to donate tissue or organs.

Gillum explains that the process can take two or three days from start to finish. Once an individual has been declared brain-dead, that is the legal declaration of death, they can remain on a ventilator. The ventilator keeps the organs viable. Gillum said that the Gift of Life works with the funeral homes, medical examiner’s offices, and families to honor whatever the wishes are. They are available after the organ and tissue donation to provide support.

“We play a big role if families ever want to communicate with recipients of their loved one’s organs. We provide them with updates on who received the organs, how many gifts of tissue were donated. We are kind of the go-between if recipients and donor families want to communicate,” informed Gillum.

Anyone can join the Gift of Life registry explained Gillum. There is nothing that would prevent an individual from signing up. Regardless of age or past medical history all are welcome to participate. Minors can join the registry as well, however, legal guardians and parents do have a final say.

“The organ donor registry is legally binding if an individual is eighteen or older, so that means that family members can’t overrule that person’s decision to be a donor,” stated Gillum. Lansing City Councilmember, Patricia Spitzley helped to organize the Gift of Life event on August 27th, 2021.

“We worked with Mayor Andy Schor to have May 31st designated as Amaia Alysse Edmond Gift of Life Day, and the mayor also issued a proclamation,” she said.

“As an African American with my legacy of diabetes and high blood pressure, and my mother’s challenges, it’s important that the African American community understand that a large majority of folks waiting for donors or waiting for organs are African Americans,” Spitzley noted.

Spitzley argued that the African American community must be educated and step up to be a part of that process. She explained that becoming a donor is seamless and painless. According to Spitzley registering to become a donor is a simple as a designation on your driver’s license.

Burton Hinton said, “It is a gift of life, the designation on your license will provide life to others. My son was a donor, and she didn’t even know it… He saved seven people and then just recently his skin saved an additional twenty-five. That’s powerful.”

Signing up for the Gift of Life is easy. Most people sign up at the Secretary of State, however, the easiest way to sign up is online at GOLM.org, informed Gillum. Just click on the become a donor button. It only takes a minute.

The Healing Hearts Project also spoke to the Gift of Life Michigan about supporting its mission with the Black and Hispanic communities. Mike Lopez of Holland, Michigan was the recipient of Amaia’s liver and he is healthy today because of the Gift of Life. At the event, he implored others from the Hispanic community to sign up to become a donor. The Lopez and Edmond family frequently meet and fellowship together over a special bond that they are both appreciative of.

For more information, contact John Edmond at 517.574.3385 or The New Citizens Press Community Action Network (TNCPCAN) at [email protected]