At the end of 2009, Chris Henry, an NFL player with the Cincinnati Bengals, was critically injured in Charlotte as the result of a motor vehicle mishap. As he lay in an intensive care unit at Carolinas Medical Center, his mother, Carolyn Glaspy, faced the most difficult decision of her life.
“I thought I was going in to see injuries. I never imagined in a million years that I was going to see my son for the last time,” she told a national audience of millions who were watching an NFL broadcast nearly a year later, on Thanksgiving Day. Mrs. Glaspy made the choice to designate Chris an organ donor. Thanks to her courage the lives of four people she did not know were changed forever.
“Chris wasn't a registered donor, and it was a hard decision to make,” said Mrs. Glaspy. “But it is a decision I would do again.”
CBS Sports filmed on location at CMC in November 2010 to shoot the dramatic story of the first-ever gathering of Chris Henry's organ recipients. Their emotional meeting, also reported nationally by the Los Angeles Times, involved James Benton (liver), Donna Arnold (kidney and pancreas), Brian Polk (kidney), and Thomas Elliot (lungs). All described the imposing health challenges they had faced prior to surgery and highlighted the vastly improved quality of life they now enjoy.
In this manner, CMC continued its role as one of the fastest growing transplant centers in the Southeast. Nearly 3,800 transplants have been completed since 1970, and survival rates have consistently met or exceeded national averages.
The tragic side of the transplant equation nationally is that 18 people die each day waiting for a donated organ. The CBS broadcast, however, validated the power of a compelling success story. The Chris Henry story resulted not only in an outpouring of interest in organ donation, but also an increase in the number of people registering to become organ donors.
LifeShare Of The Carolinas, the organ procurement agency serving the Charlotte region, reported that donor registrations nearly doubled in North Carolina in the six weeks following the broadcast. A national counterpart organization, Donate Life America, reported that its website registered more than 5,000 hits over the days following the broadcast, with 2,000 of those occurring on Thanksgiving Day alone.
CBS reports that the network’s own website had a record number of views on Thanksgiving and in the days following. In fact, as 2010 drew to a close, more than 400,000 views had been recorded on the CBS website. CMC posted the video on its own YouTube site, and recorded more than 24,000 views during the same period.
Officials at LifeShare Of The Carolinas noted that if only one of those viewers becomes a donor, up to seven lives can be saved, thus perpetuating Chris Henry's legacy.
In the words of Carolyn Glaspy, “Just knowing that I shared a part of my son's life with someone who can keep going on is the greatest gift you can imagine.”