December 15, 2013

HGTC graduate honored on float in Rose Parade as organ donor

Talk about a gift that keeps on giving, all year long, possibly for many more years, and maybe for multiple other people ...

Talk about a gift that keeps on giving, all year long, possibly for many more years, and maybe for multiple other people ...

The face of a late Horry-Georgetown Technical College alumnus will grace a 12-by-16-inch floragraph, or floral portrait, on Donate Life’s “Light Up the World” float on New Year’s Day in the Tournament of Roses 125th annual Rose Parade, which precedes the Rose Bowl Game.

Joseph Keith Wallace, a 25-year-old graduate with an associate’s degree in golf course management, died Aug. 2, 2012, from a ruptured brain aneurysm after experiencing an extreme headache and going comatose the previous day, said Mark Johnson, media relations coordinator for LifePoint, Inc. of Charleston, a registry begun in 2009 to handle organ and tissue donation services across South Carolina.

Because Wallace, a Manning resident – also a brother of Myrtle Beach Councilman Randal Wallace – had registered last year as an organ donor when renewing his S.C. driver’s license, his gift in passing has saved four other people’s lives through organ transplants, and others who received tissue:

• An Oklahoma woman, 54, received his left kidney
• An Ohio woman, 26, after waiting for a kidney for almost two years and on dialysis since 2008, received his right kidney.
• A 42-year-old S.C. father of two, on the waiting list since June 2010, received his liver.
• A 42-year-old Georgia father of three received his heart.

Johnson said that at a ceremony by LifePoint and Donate Life South Carolina at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the conference center at HGTC’s Grand Strand Campus in Myrtle Beach, near The Market Common, Keith Wallace’s loved ones will put the final touches on the floragraph for the Donate Life float, which also will honor the legacies of 80 other people whose gifts of life saved others.

This marks only the sixth time the Palmetto State has been represented on the float, an opportunity funded by a grant from Bridge to Life, a biotechnology company in Columbia helping advance the science of organ procurement and preservation, Johnson said. The Donate Life float, among 45 floats and 91 elements in the parade, is scheduled to appear in the first 30 minutes, he said, with telecasts airing 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Jan. 1 on NBC, ABC, HGTV, Hallmark Channel and Univision.

Question | How special is having Keith Wallace’s floragraph in the Rose Parade as part of increased national awareness about organ and tissue donation?

Answer | It’s huge. Every year, Donate Life of America has a float, and each state or organization in organ donation has an opportunity to have one or other local donors be honored in that float through a floral portrait, or floragraph. ... In the Rose Parade, every float has to be made of natural materials. So the floral portrait is made out of flowers, seeds and other natural materials, put together in the image of the donor, in this case, Keith Wallace.

Q. | Just how big a difference can a person after death make in improving and extending other people’s lives?

A. | Everybody has the opportunity to sign up to be a donor. Keith Wallace saved four other lives through his organ donation, and improved the lives of various others through tissue donation. Up to eight lives can be saved through organ donation. ... it is life-changing. It may not be thought of as life-saving for the donor, but it is life-saving for recipients, such as for corneas to give their sight back, or for somebody who’s a burn victim, with tissue donated to them. It helps them get part of their life back.

Q. | What misperceptions persist that might deter people from wanting to join the organ and tissue donor registry?

A. | The No. 1 myth is that ... a doctor or paramedic won’t save your life because you’re a registered organ donor. It’s not true; they work to save lives. It’s only after someone whose life cannot be saved when LifePoint is contacted. ...

Another top myth is the religions don’t support it. All the mainstream religions in this country support organ and tissue donations.

And the third myth is that you can’t have an open casket; anytime someone is a donor, whether for tissue or organs, they can have an open-casket ceremony.

Q. | How simple is the process for joining a registry, which is free?

A. | When signing up for donating, whether at the DMV or online at www.donatelifesc.org, you’re signing in the legal first person to signify that you make the decision for yourself. It also takes the burden off the next of kin to make that decision. It allows people to inform their loved ones and next of kin that they made their decision, plus the death of someone can be such a traumatic, sudden experience that somebody might not remember that decision.

Q. | Are there age limits to organ and tissue donation?

A. | We encourage anybody to join, and parents can make the decision for their children. There’s really no upper age limit. People in their 80s and 90s can be donors; it’s rare, but it can happen.

Q. | Much like other causes have a designated month to reinforce and enhance awareness, what’s the special month to remember to “Donate Life”?

A. | April is Organ Donation Awareness Month.

Q. | How does this time of year help in reminding everyone about this easy, selfless act of joining an organ registry?

A. | November and December is a time of giving thanks, and it’s a perfect time that when you think about the holidays, you think about giving and receiving. What greater gift to give than the gift of life?

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