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Importance of Organ Donations During Pause to Give Life Event

From Carteret News Times, by Cheryl Burke

MOREHEAD CITY — If anyone understands the importance of organ donors, it’s Ceara Carmack, 19, of Old Fort. That’s because she’s had two heart transplants since 2021 due to a genetic heart condition.

She was among several people who gathered Wednesday in the lobby of Carteret Health Care (CHC) for a “Pause to Give Life” ceremony, which highlighted the need for organ donations.

Ceara and her family were visiting the county this week on vacation and heard about the ceremony and wanted to attend.

“I feel like it’s the best way to honor my donors,” she said. “I actually spoke at one of these ceremonies last year in Asheville.”

Carteret Health Care is joining other hospitals in the nation to celebrate organ donors and recipients in recognition of April being National Donate Life Month.

The hospital held a Donate Life flag-raising ceremony and moment of silence to honor donors, their families and recipients. CHC, along with HonorBridge, sponsored the event. HonorBridge is a nonprofit, organ donation and tissue recovery organization serving North Carolina and Virginia.

As part of the ceremony, hospital staff raised a Donate Life flag at 10:08 a.m. to highlight that one donor can save eight lives. This was followed by a 30-second moment of silence to recognize the more than 3,000 patients waiting for a life-saving transplant across North Carolina.

“Today, as we gather under the embrace of the flying flag blowing so peacefully in the wind, we celebrate the profound gift of life bestowed through the act of organ donation,” said Tonya Fluellen, director of health equity, patient experience, regulatory and accreditation with CHC, who organized the event. “Each fluttering thread symbolizes hope, courage and the selflessness of those who have chosen to give the most precious gift of all — the gift of life.”

As the flag was being raised, Lynn Godette, compliance director for CHC, said, “Through this collective moment of reflection, we pay homage to the courage of donors, the resilience of recipients, and the unwavering commitment of healthcare professionals. Together, we stand as advocates of hope, compassion and the transformative power of organ donation, reaffirming our shared humanity and the boundless potential to make a difference in the lives of others.”

The Donate Life Flag, introduced in 2006, has become a national symbol of unity, remembrance and hope while honoring those touched by donation and transplantation. During the past 18 years, more than 50,000 Donate Life Flags have flown across America.

Across the nation and North Carolina, 2023 proved to be another record year for saving lives through organ donation and transplantation, according to a CHC press release. HonorBridge, North Carolina’s largest organ donation and tissue recovery organization, saved 912 lives, a 22% increase in 2023 compared to the previous year.

CHC nurse Kellie Gabriel said she has cared for organ donors and considers it an honor.

“The impressions these patients and their families have made upon my nursing career and my personal life is something I will always cherish,” she said. “I know in these sacred moments of care, I am not only caring for one life, but for all the lives which will be saved in turn.”

Other highlights of the ceremony included a brief comment by Tammy Jarman of Beaufort, who is the wife of a liver transplant recipient.

“Fourteen years ago, my husband was given a second chance at life with a liver transplant,” she said.

To honor organ donors, CHC nurse Alison Temple, assistant director of progressive care and critical care, read an original poem, “Renewed Hope.”

“This chance to leave a part of me to go on living, please hold onto this to help you cope,” Temple read. “Because my end is not an end at all, it is a new beginning, a chance of renewed hope.”

For Ceara, she has experienced renewed hope twice as a two-time heart transplant recipient after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in 2016. She received her first heart transplant in September 2021 at Levine’s Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.

After medications and therapy, she returned to many of her former activities. However, in April 2023, her body went into heart rejection after one of her medications was changed, she said. Ceara received a second heart transplant in June 2023 at Duke University Hospital in Durham.

She said she loves to raise awareness about the importance of being an organ donor and what it means for others.

“It’s been the greatest opportunity of my life,” she said. “For me, I’ve been given another chance to love everybody. What I can say is by being an organ donor, your legacy lives on.”

Those interested in learning more about being an organ donor can go to:

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.