Sydney BethSydney Pikey’s lungs were donated to Kyle Frankiewicz,who was suffering from cystic fibrosis.
About 1,200 Missourians are hoping for a second chance at life. That’s how many men, women, and children are on the list to receive a lifesaving organ transplant. For some, that second chance will never come. To underscore the importance of choosing to become a donor and to bring awareness to the critical need for organ, tissue, marrow, and blood donation, April has been designated National Donate Life Month.
For Stacy Pikey of New Madrid, every day is an opportunity to encourage others to consider organ donation. She has been actively educating people and dispelling myths about organ donation in a grass roots campaign since starting an organization called Sydney’s Santa in 2005. This charitable organization was created in honor of Stacy’s spunky seven-year-old daughter, Sydney Beth. Sydney Beth was involved in a fatal accident in 2003, but her parents agreed to donate their daughter’s organs. “We knew that is exactly what Sydney Beth would want to do. She was such a caring and giving person, and she would be so disappointed with us if we didn’t allow her to continue to give, to give to others as she did in life,” Stacy says. A match was found for Sydney’s lungs as well as her liver, providing a criticial opportunity for two people.
Stacy credits that difficult decision to family conversations and their daughter’s positive outlook regarding donation. The family was confronted with the question a few months prior when Sydney’s grandmother passed away. She was a tissue donor, and the Pikeys discussed the concept with their children,
“Sydney Beth thought that was the coolest thing that her grandma gave one of her eyes to a little boy,” Stacy says. Keeping with Sydney’s spirit, the goal of the organization is to bring hope to those in need by donating gifts throughout the year and to encourage others to be an organ and tissue donor.
With the momentum Sydney’s Santa has been gaining, Stacy is zealously spreading her message about organ donation.
“People have this concept of what they think about organ donation, but there are so many myths and misconceptions,” she says. “I educate people and let them know time is not on your side when you are faced with this decision. If I could stress one thing to any family, it’s to talk about the issue now. It’s a serious thing, but you don’t have the time to do it when you are faced with that decision. You don’t have hours, you don’t have minutes. You have a very small window of opportunity to make the decision that could ultimately change someone’s life.”
In 1996, Missouri state law created the Organ Donor Registry to promote organ and tissue donation. The registry is a list of individuals who intend to be a potential donor. The Department of Health and Senior Services maintains the registry. Authorized personnel access the registry at the time of death to determine if the person is listed and wished to be a donor. This information is shared with the next of kin, so they may make a final, but informed, decision on their loved one’s behalf. Currently, there are more than 2.3 million Missourians enrolled in the registry.
If a person wishes to become a donor, it is important that they discuss their wishes with loved ones, friends, healthcare providers, and religious advisors, says Virginia Beatty, a planner for the Missouri Organ Donor Program.
“Missouri’s registry is one of intent rather than a statement of consent,” Virginia says. “Currently in Missouri, a donor’s family is given the option to proceed with the donation.” Often, because a person’s intent to donate has not been discussed with family members, people are faced with a difficult decision at a difficult time.
For Stacy and the Pikeys, their experiences with tissue and organ donation have been overwhelmingly positive despite the heartache that is associated with their loss. “It helps me when I talk about Sydney Beth and share my tragedy with someone else. Through God’s help and your faith in God and the gift of organ donation, you can turn tragedy into something positive,” Stacy says. “You can say, ‘My loved one is a hero. They actually saved someone’s life.’
Visit www.missouriorgandonor.com for more information.