Carolinas HealthCare System
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Mom, Grateful For Organ Donor, Encouraging More to Register

Almost every day since her son’s liver transplant in October 2013, Geri Edwards of Statesville has been reminding friends, families and anyone she can to register as an organ donor.

Tranplant Patient, Dalton EdwardsTranplant Patient, Dalton Edwards

“I would love to meet the family of the person who donated the liver,” Edwards said. “We’re very, very grateful.”

Although she’s been an organ donor for a long time, Edwards didn’t give it much thought until her son was placed on the waiting list at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Children’s Hospital.

Her son Dalton, 16, a junior at West Iredell High School, found out Sept. 27, 2013, that he had a large 12-pound cancerous tumor on his liver. If doctors performed surgery, he wouldn’t have enough liver left to regenerate. He needed a new liver.

Because of his medical situation, Dalton was made the highest priority and put on the organ waiting list. After only three days on the list, on Oct. 9, 2013, Dalton received that new liver. “They told us they had never had an available liver that fast,” Edwards said.

“The transplant waiting list is made up of people of all ages,” said Gary Burris, chief operating officer for LifeShare Of The Carolinas, a partner of Carolinas HealthCare System. “Likewise, it’s important to show that people of any age can make a powerful difference in someone’s life by being a donor. Donation saves and heals lives every day.”

David Levi, MD
David Levi, MD
Transplant Surgeon at CMC

During April – which is National Donate Life Month – LifeShare held events to raise awareness for not just organ donations, but also eye and tissue donation. Hospitals around the region held flag-raising ceremonies during April that featured past donors and recipients speaking about their experiences, and also encouraged registering to be a donor. Carolinas Medical Center plans to host an organ donation flag-raising ceremony on May 13.

The liver transplant team at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Center for Liver Diseases is also celebrating its 20th anniversary of its first liver transplant. Since that date in 1994, the liver transplant team has performed more than 700 liver transplants and is now performing 60 to 70 transplants annually.

“We have many patients – adults and children – awaiting organ transplants. For some, timing is critical,” said David M. Levi, MD, the transplant surgeon at Carolinas Medical Center who performed Dalton's surgery. “By becoming an organ donor, you have the potential to give others a second chance at life. By making your feelings about organ donation known and registering as an organ donor, you maximize that potential.”

More than 120,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list.

Dalton, however, doesn’t want anyone to wait for organs and possibly die before receiving one. “He told his surgeon that he wants to major in bio-medical technology,” his mother said. “He’s very serious about it and has been studying up. He wants to be able to grow organs so others won’t have to wait.”

Geri Edwards is also grateful there is a nationally-respected organ transplant center right here in our region and only 90 minutes from their home.

Vani Gopalareddy, MD
Vani Gopalareddy, MD
Director of Liver Transplantation

“Of course, as a mother, I’m going to check out where my child is getting a transplant,” she said. “Everywhere I called said Levine Children’s Hospital is the best. The hospital has been absolutely wonderful.

I couldn’t ask for anything better. The whole experience has been the best hospital experience we’ve ever had.”

Vani Gopalareddy, MD, director of liver transplantation, is happy Dalton’s case turned out so well, all thanks to a liver transplant. “The collaboration of care that goes into each case is remarkable,” she said. “We work closely with our general pediatricians, specialists and surgical partners. The partnership we share in bettering the lives of our patients is very strong and works very well.”

To become an organ donor, you join the North Carolina Organ Donor Registry. LifeShare Of The Carolinas has more information on organ and tissue in our region.