This month, we are shining a light on powerful stories of organ donation from our health system and community. If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of organ donation or if you want to sign up to become a donor, visit msora.org.
“Brittany’s smile could light up the room,” Ellen Duvernay says about her daughter. Brittany was 26 years old when she was in a golf cart accident, suffered a traumatic brain injury, and passed away. Now, her mother is on a journey to spread awareness about organ donation, the gift her daughter gave to other families.
April is National Donate Life Month and Ellen hopes that by telling her story and highlighting Brittany’s commitment to organ donation, others will be inspired to also become an organ donor. Ellen says, “Her smile will catch everybody’s eye, they’ll read her story, and then they’ll sign up to become an organ donor.”
A tragic loss leads to hope for others
It was after learning Brittany didn’t make it that Brittany’s family learned from Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency (MORA) that she was an organ donor. Ellen shares, “That was perfect for her because that’s what she did all the time; she gave, and she wanted everybody to be happy. So [organ donation] was an easy decision for us.”
Brittany could not have known that signing up to be an organ donor when she was younger would save multiple lives. Ellen shares, “Brittany went to get her driver’s license renewed when she was 18, and she saw the heart on the bottom of the license. And Brittany said, “’Well, I want one of those.’” Her family didn’t know that she had signed up to become an organ donor.
That decision allowed one woman to receive two healthy lungs and another man to receive a healthy kidney, all from Brittany. Ellen shares, “Personally, it has helped with the grief journey because we were blessed to be able to meet the woman who received her lungs. I felt like I was hugging Brittany. If Nancy, the recipient, had not received Brittany’s lungs, she would have only had two weeks to live.”
Committed to increasing awareness
Now, Ellen volunteers her time with MORA to encourage others to sign up as organ donors. She says, “I was helping MORA at one of their sign-up events at Memorial, and a young man walked in. I asked him if he was an organ donor, and he said no. I asked him why, and he said organ donation was strange. I asked him one more question – what if your child was in the hospital and needed an organ to live? Would you want one to be available? His face was priceless as he said yes.” He signed up to become an organ donor on the spot.
She adds, “There are so many misconceptions about organ donation, that it’s too expensive or that you won’t be taken care of if you are a donor. That’s not the case.”