MILTON — For the entire month of April — National Donate Life Month — Santa Rosa Medical Center will fly a Donate Life flag with the words “Honoring Organ, Eye and Tissue Donors.” For JoLynn Peoples, this month and those words mean something special.
It wasn’t until Peoples’ mother, Kim Abbey, became ill with a kidney disease that Peoples and her family began learning about organ donation.
“My husband was an organ donor, but I wasn’t,” Peoples said. “It was just something I had never thought of.”
The Peoples family lived only four miles from Abbey, and Peoples home schooled her four children. Therefore, they traveled with their parents to numerous hospitals looking for treatment and a new kidney for their grandmother.
When Peoples’ second oldest child, Travis, got his drivers license, he was asked if he wanted to become an organ donor. He didn’t think twice.
“I guess it’s the naivety of boys, but he thought, ‘Why wouldn’t anyone be an organ donor?’” Peoples said. “We don’t need our bodies after we’re gone.”
That was in April 2007. Just a few months later, Travis died following a July motor bike accident. Peoples said the staff at Sacred Heart Medical Center asked her about organ donation, and she thought of her mother.
The following Monday, Abbey received Travis’s kidney. Abbey died two years ago, but Peoples said her quality of life for following the transplant was greatly improved.
“She told everyone it was her grandson’s kidney,” Peoples said. “It was very special.”
Not only is April a month for organ donation awareness and education, it is also Travis’ birthday month. Peoples said her and her husband try to think of ways to honor him during the month, and this year she attended the Donate Life ceremony at SRMC and shared her family’s story.
SRMC partnered with LifeNet Health for the event on April 10. LifeNet is a non-profit global leader in regenerative medicine and the world's largest provider of allograft bio-implants and organs for transplantation, according to their website. For 35 years, their mission has been: “Saving Lives. Restoring Health. Giving Hope.”
There are LifeNet locations across the world, with the headquarters in Virginia Beach and a facility in Pensacola.