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Cleveland honored for promoting organ and tissue donations


By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent 

  More than 4,000 Georgians are currently waiting for an organ or tissue donation that could save their lives. Sadly, some of those individuals may never receive one.

LifeLink of Georgia's Cassie Borderieux (from left) congratulated Henry County Coroner Donald Cleveland for receiving the organization's Coroner of the Quarter award.      Photo by Mickie Jackson

  A statewide organization recently honored Henry County Coroner Donald Cleveland for his efforts in helping to improve their chances and to save lives.

  Cleveland received a Coroner of the Quarter award from LifeLink of Georgia, the state’s nonprofit organ procurement organization and tissue bank.

  “In life, there is going to be death,” said Cleveland. “That’s a given. But because of organ and tissue donation, in death there can be life.”

  Cleveland, 44, of Locust Grove has been the county coroner since 2010.  He said he has seen the impact that organ and tissue donations can have on those who are left behind.

  “You see their eyes light up to know that part of their loved one will continue to live on and save someone else’s life,” said Cleveland.

  Cleveland works to secure donations of organs and tissue and to emphasize the need for donors, as he did during the past school year at Hampton Middle School. LifeLink’s Senior Public Affairs Coordinator, Kaysha Cranon, said Cleveland’s involvement with the organization began after attending a symposium on organ and tissue donation.

  “Cleveland realized he can directly impact the lives of families he works with and help create a second chance at life for others indirectly by working with LifeLink of Georgia,” said Cranon. “After the symposium, Cleveland went back to work and was immediately reminded of organ and tissue donation when a police officer handed him the license of someone who had passed away with the ‘organ donor’ designation.  He knew that if their loved one was healthy enough, they would be able to save or enhance the lives of up to 60 people.”

  Cleveland toured LifeLink’s facility in Norcross in March to learn more about the organization, said Cassie Borderieux, Life-Link’s liaison for coroners, funeral homes and medical examiners in Georgia. Borderieux commended Cleveland for his desire to promote organ and tissue donations locally.

  “Donald is very dedicated in working with us,” said Bord-erieux. “Donald has called in numerous referrals which have led to several donors for Henry County. He’s always worked in this community, and he wanted to continue to serve the people of Henry County. He made a personal choice to promote and educate about donation, and he’s done an outstanding job.”

  Currently, more than four million people in Georgia – and 107,331 in Henry County --  are registered as organ and tissue donors. On Friday, Borderieux said the demand for additional donors is “tremendous” due to the number of people awaiting transplants.

  “As of today, there are over 4,300 in Georgia and over 121,000 in the United States waiting on life-saving organs,” she said. “Eighteen to 20 of those waiting will die every day.”

  Borderieux said 90 percent of those awaiting transplants are in need of kidneys as a result of diabetes, hypertension or sedentary lifestyles. She works to spread the word about the need for more organ donors in Georgia, and said coroners like Cleveland are crucial in that mission.

  “We work as a team together to save lives and to have a positive outcome from, sometimes, very tragic situations,” said Borderieux.

  She said one organ donor can save up to eight people’s lives. Organs that can be donated are the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas and small intestines.

  “One tissue donor can improve and enhance up to five people’s lives,” said Borderieux. “Tissues that can be donated are corneas, heart valves, skin, long bones, tendons and veins.”

  A person who wishes to register as an organ and tissue donor can do so when obtaining or renewing a driver’s license from the Georgia Department of Driver Services, or online at www.donatelifegeorgia .org. Borderieux said there are certain criteria that must be met to be an organ donor or recipient.

  “People just don’t realize what a gift they can give to others,” she said.

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