Donate Life Flag Offers Opportunities to Honor Donors and Raise Community Awareness
Posted April 1, 2011 in Hospital Partner News, News Category
“Visibility helps jumpstart the conversation.” Peggy Wobbema, a Chaplain in the Pastoral Care Department at CoxHealth South in Springfield, talks passionately about raising a Donate Life flag in front of her hospital. “It’s there every day, right under our hospital flag,” she says. “What I want the community to ask themselves every time they see the flag is, ‘Am I signed up?’ and ‘What do I believe about organ and tissue donation?’ It’s a daily chance to trigger thoughts and questions about the process and benefits of donation.”
The Donate Life flag has become a national symbol to honor the gift of life that is given by organ and tissue donor families. More than 5,000 flags are now flying in 39 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The flags are championed by Donate Life America (DLA), a national organization founded by the transplant community and dedicated to educating the public about organ, eye and tissue donation. Mid-America Transplant Services also is among the organ procurement organizations that are members of DLA.
Donate Life America aims to more than double the number of flags being flown with the primary goal of increasing the number of names on state donor registries to 100 million people. In its 2010 National Donor Designation Report Card, Donate Life reports that 86.3 million people have signed up nationwide.
“I know that when people look at the flag, it begins that conversation that initiates education,” says Joan Keiser, a Chaplain at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield and a member of the Governor’s Organ Donation Advisory Committee. “We initially thought we’d raise the flag whenever we had a donor at our hospital, but by flying it every day, we honor our donor families and build community awareness.”
St. John’s was the first in the region to fly a flag in honor of organ and tissue donation. The hospital is so committed to promoting awareness that it designed its own flag, which depicts a large green ribbon. The hospital also designed a donor certificate to give to families.
At Skaggs Regional Medical Center, a 165-bed facility near Branson, the rural hospital recorded several vital organ donors in late 2010 and early 2011, as well as documented an increase in tissue donors. While medical circumstances clearly determine if there is a potential organ donor, the hospital also held a Donate Life Flag Raising Ceremony in April 2010 that was covered by many local news media.
“It was a very nice event with a local heart recipient present for the flag-raising,” says Traci Smith, a Donor Program Specialist for Mid-America Transplant Services. “The hospital previously had flown a Donate Life flag, and the transplant recipient took the old flag that was a little tattered and had local Boy Scouts dispose of it in the same manner that a US flag would be. Now a new Donate Life flag is flying at Skaggs and it continues to build awareness throughout the community.”
Donor families are especially appreciative of how the flag can honor a loved one. “We had a young man in our trauma unit who died and I told the father about the flag,” recalls Chaplain Keiser. “The next day, the family came back to St. John’s and circled the flagpole and took a picture. I believe the flag is a reminder to them of their son and that he now lives on in others through the gift of organ donation.”
MTS offers its regional hospital partners free Donate Life flags. All you have to do is just ask! We also provide brochures, banners and information to any hospital or community group that is interested in holding a donor registration drive or offer support and resources if hospitals wish to create permanent displays or organize internal committees to spread the word about organ and tissue donation.
Here are some ideas to consider if you need a jumpstart:
- Fly the Donate Life flag whenever a donor family consents to donation
- Hold public flag-raising events with donor families and transplant recipients
- Fly the flag year-round
- Organize Donor Registry drives in your hospital or community
- Expand media opportunities by talking about organ and tissue donations in your hospital and showcasing the flag
- Develop a permanent or temporary display in your hospital to educate the public about donation
Organ and tissue donation has become a passion and a personal mission for me,” says Cindy Butler, Director of Critical Care at Phelps County Regional Medical Center in Rolla, Mo. “In addition to having a donor flag flying at the hospital, I’ve been flying a donor flag beside my own house for the past three years. My friends and neighbors have commented on the flag and it opens the door for conversations about the choice.
Adds Chaplain Keiser, “I think the donation process is so well described by Albert Schweitzer: ‘Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.’ That is indeed why I have such a passion for the donation process.”