WVPA Sharing

KCHD celebrates National Donate Life Month with story of a living donor and paired exchange 

West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A group of employees gathered in the rain on April 10 by the flagpole at Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to hear the story of one woman’s sacrifice to save her critically ill husband, and to raise a flag to commemorate the agency’s inaugural year as the first health department in West Virginia to serve as a registration site for organ donation. 

Dr. Steven Eshenaur, KCHD health officer and executive director, was joined by special guests as he raised the Donate Life flag. “Today highlights the critical role organ donation plays in the public’s health and wellbeing by providing hope and opportunity for those in need,” Eshenaur said. “It also showed us a creative and selfless way to help our loved ones get the organs that will save their lives – paired exchange.” 

Pam King is a living donor. She shared her journey through the paired-exchange program facilitated by the Charleston Area Medical Center Transplant Center. Pam and her husband Brian were part of the first West Virginia kidney paired exchange, which matches incompatible donor-recipient pairs with other incompatible donor recipient pairs. They “exchange” donors. Pam wasn’t a match for her husband and another pair – a son and a father – were not compatible. So, Pam’s kidney went to the father, who lives in St. Albans, and his son’s kidney went to Pam’s husband Brian. She urged family members to have conversations about paired exchange even if it feels difficult at first. 

“I encourage everyone to have organ donation conversations with your family and friends and become a voice for those who need help. Consider becoming a living donor. I did it and you can, too,” Pam said. 

Cheryl King, West Virginia’s Community Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Organ Recovery & Education, said CORE and its hospital partners celebrated their fifth consecutive year of saving and healing lives across Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. “Through the selflessness of nearly 2,000 organ, tissue or cornea donors, we facilitated the transplantation of 928 organs and 1,003 corneas while also healing more than 100,000 lives through tissue donation.” 

CORE is one of 56 federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organizations in the United States. CORE partners with more than 150 hospitals and health care facilities to deliver the gift of life by coordinating the surgical recovery of organs, tissues and corneas for transplantation. CORE also facilitates the computerized matching of donated organs, tissues and corneas. 

KCHD partnered with CORE in 2023 to serve as a registration site for organ donation. It is the first partnership of its kind in West Virginia. Signing up to become a donor is easy; ask for a form at KCHD or visit registerme.org. 

A group of Kanawha-Charleston Health Department employees gathers on the Clendenin Street side of KCHD for a flag raising ceremony. Guest speaker Pam King talks about the creative way she helped her husband Brian get a new kidney when she wasn’t a match. It’s called paired exchange.

Feature image caption: (L to R) Dr. Steven Eshenaur raises the Donate Life Flag with the help of Cheryl King, CORE’s West Virginia Community Outreach Coordinator, and Pam King, a living organ donor.

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