Adam and Joan Cribb just saw the third of their three children receive a liver transplant.
The Georgetown County family spent this past week at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Haley Cribb, 11, like her older siblings Tayler and Dalton Cribb, 20 and 16, respectively, have coped with progressive intrahepatic cholestasis.
Calling Wednesday from MUSC, two days after the operation, Joan Cribb said Tayler had her transplant at age 10, Dalton age 5, and the family learned of Haley’s condition from tests when she was 2 months old.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Joan Cribb said, pausing to collect feelings, “other than if it wasn’t for organ donors, I wouldn’t have any of my kids.”
I really don’t know what to say, other than if it wasn’t for organ donors, I wouldn’t have any of my kids.
Joan Cribb, mother of three children who have had organ transplants
Donations from one person can help several dozen other lives, and those gifts really keep on giving.
Donate Life America celebrates National Donate Life Month every April, as part of a year-round awareness effort to show how selfless an individual can be in joining an organ and tissue donation registry, so that upon death, life can spring forward for other people seeking a last hope to carry on.
In the Palmetto State, registering legal consent to commit these gifts in death is easy through Donate Life South Carolina. Visit www.donatelifesc.org, or affirm your declaration when obtaining, renewing or changing a driver’s license/ID through the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. Either way, this good-hearted deed takes only five minutes to complete.
Mark Johnson, media relations coordinator for LifePoint Inc. in Charleston – which working with the Donate Life national alliance, coordinates organ and tissue recovery across South Carolina – said a majority of licensed drivers living in Horry County are on the registry, the highest rate in this state for participation in this program.
He remembered a few years ago the loss of “a good friend of mine” who died waiting on a transplant, and assuming at the time that “everyone who needed a transplant got one.”
The growth in awareness nationwide about organ and tissue donation nationwide continues, Johnson said.
“Even though more and more people are signing up,” he said, “more and more people are needing a transplant.”
Johnson also appreciated the honor of joining Randal Wallace’s family to see Donate Life’s “Light Up the World” float roll on New Year’s Day 2014 in the Tournament of Roses 125th annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., preceding the Rose Bowl game that day. On the float, the floral portraits of 80 individuals whose donations of organs and tissue saved others included Wallace’s younger brother, Keith Wallace. He died at age 25 in August 2012 from a brain aneurism, but because he had registered as an organ donor through his driver’s license renewal, transplants of his heart, liver and both kidneys saved four other people’s lives, across the country, and others benefited from relay of healthy tissue.
Randal Wallace, a Myrtle Beach city councilman, said he helps promote the cause of organ and tissue donation because he saw “some good come out of a tragic situation for us.” Realizing that with life, “you have to move on,” Wallace, the middle of three siblings spanning 23 years in total age difference, said hearing recollections from friends and former classmates of Keith’s only has reinforced what he knew firsthand of Keith – whom he said “really died out of the blue” – being “just fun to be around.”
Dining after the Rose Parade with another family who had a floragraph in the procession, Wallace said, a mother and her two children remembered the loss of her father – and his gift of life as a donor – from just a few months earlier, “and we had a long, emotional talk” about him and Keith, and that friendship has continued through contact on Facebook.
Wallace, who stressed the value of body tissue from organ donors, said his family has received “really nice letters” from two individuals who received anterior cruciate ligaments from Keith’s legs, which ended their being sidelined from everyday activities. One recipient was able to resume a pastime of outdoor activities, and the other got back to playing soccer.
Seeing how organ recipients find such happiness and fortune at a new turn in life, Wallace said he can understand any guilt they might have, because of another family’s loss. However, he also wants to help dispel myths about organ donation, such as how registered organ donors’ lives will not be saved by rescue or hospital personnel or that an open casket ceremony cannot happen with the deceased.
“Those kind of fears,” he said of such unfounded hearsay, “are nonexistent.”
A fan of the former CBS nighttime soap “Dallas,” Wallace said his interest in organ donation preceded Keith’s passing, and was spurred by the late actor Larry Hagman, who having received a liver transplant, also touted the virtues of giving life after death.
Receiving correspondence from people who have received transplants, Wallace said, “I know it’s a good cause. You really see the results.”
Helping prevent heartbreak in others
Alan and Jane Sipe of Garden City Beach lost their son, Justin Sipe, 10 years ago in February.
The father said Justin was diagnosed at 3 months old with cystic fibrosis, but that didn’t stop him from staying active in growing up, playing various sports, the trumpet, and a love of the outdoors. Time ran out, though, on receiving a lung transplant amid the dearth of donors at that juncture to save his life and “thousands and thousands of others” nationwide,” Alan Sipe said.
That only motivated the couple, who will mark 45 years of marriage this fall, as Donate Life advocates to help others through organ and tissue donation.
“It was a way for us to continue his legacy, so to speak,” Alan Sipe said. “He was a giving person himself. He was always thinking of others, rather than himself, even though he had a lot of physical issues and problems.
“Hopefully, in some small way, this will help prevent another family from having to go through the heartbreak we went through.”
Sipe said they found out about other special traits in Justin through his friends and acquaintances “just after he passed away.”
“One thing I learned that makes me a very proud father,” Sipe said, “is he was usually the voice of reason among his friends.”
Laughing in remembering a compliment from Justin, “after a night out with a friend,” Sipe quoted his son: “Dad, it’s getting scary. I’m sounding more like you every day.”
“Evidently,” Sipe said, “he just chewed someone out. He had a big heart.”
Sipe also was moved to find out that Justin – like him, an avid deer hunter – was studying gunsmithing at a local indoor range, and the site’s owner relayed the refinished rifle that Justin was restoring.
Firing away at the importance of “the gift that keeps on giving,” Sipe said he and his wife will keep encouraging and informing people about the value and ease of organ and tissue donation.
“Hopefully,” Sipe said, “this will help prevent someone else from passing away because there was not enough organs to go around. The more people you get on board, the better chances of that happening.
“We have met a lot of families who have been donor families, and met a lot of recipients, and that just really lifts our spirits. Anytime I see a recipient of a donor’s organ doing well, it just lifts me into the clouds.”
Third time’s truly a charm
Joan Cribb called all three children “really close.”
“They share what each one has been through,” she said, “and they know what each is going through.”
Joan Cribb said that mutual support remains vital because recovery includes the reality of staying on medicine for a lifetime and possibly fighting bodily rejection, which could necessitate another transplant down the road.
The mother also said that after Haley’s discharge from the MUSC surgery unit, recovery takes place in proximity to the medical complex “for a couple of months,” so that means family members stay away from home with her, prompting the skyrocketing cost of the whole lifesaving process, including hotel stays.
Joan Cribb said when Haley’s in that interval soon, they will treat her to a meal at a Japanese restaurant nearby “she is dying to go to.”
Grassroots generosity also has sprung up for the Cribbs, thanks to volunteers raising funds for the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (cota.org) to help offset the estimated $50,000 cost to the family for all of Emily’s procedures and special care. (More details at cota.donorpages.com/PatientOnlineDonation/COTAforHaleyEC/, or send check or money order, with “In Honor of Haley EC” on memo line, to COTA, 2501 W. COTA Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403.)
Since meeting kin from the donor whose liver saved Tayler Cribb’s life, Joan Cribb said, the mothers have stayed in constant touch.
“Once you do something like that,” Joan Cribb said, “it’s special to you. She loves Tayler like’s she’s her own daughter.
From that side, if you can stay in contact, you feel like a part of your child is helping another achieve something and giving them that second chance at life.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
If you help
WHAT: Join Donate Life South Carolina’s registry as an organ and tissue donor.
WHEN: During April – Donate Life America’s National Donate Life Month (donatelife.net) – and any other time of year
HOW: Two easy options for South Carolinians to register legal consent –
▪ Visit www.donatelifesc.org
▪ Make declaration when obtaining, renewing or changing a driver’s license/ID through the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.
▪ Donate Life South Carolina – 864-609-5270 or 877-277-4866
▪ LifePoint Inc. of Charleston, which coordinates organ and tissue recovery across South Carolina – 843-763-7755, 800-462-0755 or lifepoint-sc.org.
By the numbers
▪ 1,671,885 – Number of registered donors in South Carolina, as of March 25.
▪ 90 – Percentage of individuals on S.C. transplant waiting list in need of a kidney.
▪ 4 or more – Typical wait time in years for a kidney transplant, based on such factors as blood type.
▪ More than 121,000 – People on national waiting list for organs (with more than 100,000 needing a kidney), as of March 18.
▪ 150 – Number of individuals nationwide added daily to organ transplant waiting list each day – one every 10 minutes.
▪ 22 – Deaths per day of people waiting on a lifesaving transplant.
▪ 8 – The potential number of lives one person might help save through organ donation.
▪ At least 50 – Lives one individual might help improve through tissue donation.
▪ 123 – People in South Carolina who upon death in 2015 and donation of organs, helped save 419 lives nationally.
▪ More than 29,000 – Individuals last year whose lives were lengthened from organ transplants.
▪ More than 1 million – Tissue transplants performed nationwode in 2015.
Source: Donate Life South Carolina
ALSO: Waiting list, from United Network for Organ Sharing data, as of March 18:
▪ In South Carolina – 947 for all organs, 847 kidney, 53 liver, 12 pancreas, kidney/pancreas 52, 4 heart, and 2 lung.
▪ Nationwide – 121,302 all organs; 100,467 kidney; 14,794 liver; 1,035 pancreas; kidney/pancreas 1,932; heart 4,154, lung 1,470; heart/lung 44; and 274 intestine.