The message that Mid-America Transplant sends about saving lives in important, but it would all be for nothing without the families who make the decision to turn their darkest moments into the gift of life. Some of those families come from Southeast Missouri State University.
Cindi Silvey is one of the biggest advocates for organ donation, and her roots trail right back to Southeast Missouri State University.
Silvey's daughter, Meg Herndon, was a soccer player for Southeast. In 2012, Meg unexpectedly passed away following an accident. Meg's family made the decision to donate her organs, and it's part of what keeps her alive today.
"I really thought this was something impactful," Silvey said. "We never sat down and talked about it exactly, but it's something now that we talk about and I share with students and parents. Have those conversations with your young adult children, what tare their wishes? Because it can be impactful."
Since the day she lost her daughter and made the decision to donate her organs, Cindi has been a continuous voice for organ donor families. She continues to return to Southeast, where her daughter was pursuing a nursing degree, and advocate for choosing the gift of life.
"You don't just save one life," Silvey said. "You're seeing the ripple effects, it's not just one recipient. It's people who go on to live lives and branch out."
Jim Tietjens knows first hand just how important organ donation can be to an individual and to a family.
Tietjen saw a genetic heart condition kill his father in his thirties. Then he saw the same condition kill his sister in her thirties. When he hit his thirties, he was diagnosed with the same exact one.
However, Jim is still standing here today. He got to see his children and grandchildren grow up, and thankfully not develop the heart condition themselves. He gets to live a life.
That's all because a family made the decision to donate a loved one's organs. Jim had his first heart transplant in 1992, a young man in his thirties. Twenty-six years later, he had a second operation, a heart and kidney transplant.
Tietjens has continued a relationship with his donor's family. His second heart and kidney donor was a Southeast alumnnus, Colton Ellis. Tietjens visits Colton's mother in Cape Girardeau once a year to help remind her what her son was able to do for someone else. To him, his donor's family is just as much a part of his family.
"This is incredible, I'm just so thankful," Tietjens said. "I take that responsibility very seriously, as do all recipients. It means a lot to us and we try to make it mean a lot to them."
Steve Marbain was born with glomerular nephritis, meaning his kidney didn't work properly from the start.
Even though he grew up relatively normal, he was waiting for the day when his kidneys no longer worked. In February of 2014, he was put on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Steve waited for over six years, and then he was called in.
"I had the surgery on a Monday and was discharged that Friday," Marbain said. "And everything's been great every since."
Before the surgery, Marbain went through some obstacles to get to the point he was in the operating room. Twice, he was called in for possible transplants, only to go home with no operations. Kidneys are in high demand, and there is only a particular amount of time that kidneys can be out of the body and still be viable for transplant. Plus, recipients need to be in entirely good health in order to move forward with operations.
Marbain has stayed very involved with Mid-America Transplant since receiving his kidney. He has a daughter who went to Southeast and is interested in continuing to advocate for organ donation on campus.
Marbain says the first step to saving lives is having that conversation, even with college students.