Members of the community gathered at Baptist Health Corbin Friday to commemorate “Blue and Green Day” in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation.
Among the featured speakers was John Whitlock, whose wife, Kellee Edwards Whitlock, died of cancer.
Whitlock explained that while the cancer had ravaged all Kellee’s vital organs, the corneas of her eyes were viable for transplant.
“I’m sure Kellee would be disappointed,” Whitlock said of the fact that she couldn’t do more.
Two people received the corneas, including an individual from Corbin.
“Maybe, one of these days, I will look into the eyes of a stranger and look into Kellee’s eyes,” Whitlock said.
Whitlock said his wife spoke often about her wishes after death, particularly what was to be done with her body. First and foremost, she did not want to be buried, but asked that any parts of her that could improve the life of someone else, be used to do so.
Whitlock encouraged others to see organ and tissue donation as Kellee did, an opportunity to help others.
Speaking on behalf of transplant recipients was Jodie Hoskins, whose son, Connor Quillen, is living a normal life after receiving a new liver.
Hoskins explained that from the time he was born in 1999, Connor suffered from a liver disease that left him constantly fatigued.
“Our lives were just a constant rotation of hospital, doctor’s office, needle sticks, diagnostic procedures, and around-the-clock medication,” Hoskins said adding that by age 8, it became apparent that Connor would need a new liver.
He was placed on the transplant waiting list and two months later they were notified that a liver had become available.
“That seems like a long time, but, in reality, people can wait much longer than that,” Hoskins said. “We were very fortunate.”
In the months following the transplant, Hoskins said Connor found new life.
“He felt good. He went back to school. He participated in more activities,” Hoskins said. “He is getting ready for his senior prom. He will graduate next month and go on to college.”
“The only reason any of this is possible is because is because a very selfless family made a decision to donate their child’s organs and give Connor and other sick children like Connor the incredible gift of life,” Hoskins said.
Alice Tremaine, the hospital chaplain, explained it could be a family member, friend or neighbor who is the next one added to one of the waiting lists for an organ.
“Studies have shown that a person is more likely to need a new organ than to become an organ donor at some point in their lifetime,” Tremaine said.
“So many factors have to be just right that anytime there is a match, it is truly a miracle,” she said.
More information about registering to become an organ donor is available online at https://donatelifeky.org.