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Governor’s Address: Save 8. Donate: The Importance of Organ Donation

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A hundred folks gathered in the rotunda at the Capitol this week as the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency launched “Save 8. Donate,” its campaign to encourage Arkansans to sign up as an organ donor.

The name is perfect for the cause. One donor can save up to eight lives with the donation of kidneys, lungs, heart and other vital organs. Even more, the donation of your tissue can improve or enhance life for up to 200 people.

Audrey Coleman, of the Regional Organ Recovery Agency, tells the story with numbers: 114,000 Americans are on the waiting list for an organ; 20 of them will die each day; 95 percent of adults say they support the idea of organ donations, but in Arkansas, only 56 percent are registered.

But you understand the story when you hear from the people who are alive because someone donated their organs. Or from the people whose loved one was a donor.

Paul Owen told us about his daughter, Melissa, who had checked the box on her driver’s license as a teenager. On December 24, 2013, an aneurysm took Melissa’s life. She was 38.

One of Melissa’s kidneys went to New York, the other to Arizona. Then Paul said: “And who would have known, two miles away from us, a heart went to our new daughter, Yolanda.”

On Christmas Day 2013, a representative from the transplant center at Baptist Hospital called Yolanda Harshaw to tell her a heart was available. She lived about two miles from Paul and Becky Owen.

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Yolanda was at the Capitol, too. That was a moving moment, to see Melissa’s parents hug the woman who is alive because of their daughter’s gift.

If it were one of your children, or your spouse, in need of an organ, you would donate an organ without a second thought. You would appeal to strangers to donate, if that would save your loved one. You don’t need me to remind you that the people on the waiting list are someone’s children or spouse, and one of us might be that stranger who could save that life by registering as a donor.

Save 8. Donate. One donor can save up to eight lives.

What a great name for this campaign. It says it all.

You can sign up at a motor vehicle office or online. It’s easy.

In fact, it’s so easy, even a governor can do it. I’ve checked the box on my driver’s license.

Donovan Tucker has written a song of gratitude to the person whose donation of an organ saved his life. To hear the song, YouTube “The Gift” by Donovan Tucker.

RELATED: Read more from Gov. Asa Hutchinson here

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