Program, Hart Senate Building
Story by Eleanor
Jones, photography by Bob Garypie and Mike Lougee
The Hart Senate Building provides offices for senators, quite
close to the capitol dome. The First Family Pledge Congress
afternoon program convened on the ninth floor, with a magnificent
view of the mall and skylights providing natural lighting.
|Steve Bullock, President of American Red Cross,
opened the afternoon program by speaking on the partnership
between his and other organizations like the American Society
of Transplant Surgeons, working to show the public the importance
of this issue. The Red Cross has launched a donor family network,
members of which will serve as advocates for all donor families.
Mr. Bullock also spoke on the need to encourage all americans
to talk to each other about donation, so that they know they
are not only honoring their loved one's intentions, but also
helping others. Recipients are "walking reminders"
of what donation means: saving lives. He also thanked the First
Family Pledge for their leadership in this area.
Senator Bill Frist, a cardiac transplant surgeon and member
of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, was one of
the first to sign the First Family Pledge. Coming to the podium,
he said he was delighted to have been a participant. He asked,
"Who is the youngest recipient here? Under five?"
Many hands went up. "Under four?" Several hands.
"Under two?" Only two hands were raised. Senator
Frist continued, explaining that this is the reason we are
here today: this so-called miracle called transplantation
that we do every day in this country.
He explained that the First Family Pledge is all about having
a conversation about donation with your family. As a surgeon,
the youngest transplant recipient he ever operated on was
only five and a half days old! Now that he works in public
policy, he feels it is his responsibility to pull together
what all these public and private entities can do to educate
the public about donation. It's important to have the conversation
in advance, so family doesn't have to decide while in shock/mourning,
so Senator Frist will continue this work, taking this message
|Reg and Maggie Green then emceed the Presentation
of Resolution of Thanks and Response section of the program,
in which delegates got the chance to meet with their congresspersons,
and posed for photographs.
Among the members of Congress who addressed the gathering
were Carolyn McCarthy (NY), who spoke of having been a nurse
for 32 years. During that time, she approached grieving families
about organ and tissue donation. When her son nearly died,
she found herself in the position of being asked about donating
his organs. Fortunately, her son recovered, and so donation
became a moot point. From her experiences as a nurse, Congresswoman
McCarthy says she knows how difficult it is to approach families
about donation, but she also knows what a difference it can
make in the lives of others.
Senator Ted Kennedy (MA) also spoke on his commitment to
organ donation, saying that he hoped to have all of the Kennnedy
clan sign donor cards - involving all of the 30 grandchildren
and 59 great grandchilden!
As congresspersons spoke on organ donation, and these child
delegates (all transplant recipients themselves) had the opportunity
to meet their congressional representatives, it was truly
a remarkable sight. The presence of these 204 children whose
lives were saved by organ donation and transplantation spoke
eloquently to the power and importance of the gift of life.