South Texas Health System McAllen Celebrates Local Organ Donors During Special Donate Life Flag Raising Ceremony
There is never a lack of need for donors with approximately 11,693 people currently waiting for donations in Texas alone, according to Donate Life America. Coming off a year with the highest number of donors in a decade, South Texas Health System partnered with the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA) to honor donors and their families on Wednesday, April 5, at STHS McAllen with a special Donate Life flag raising ceremony.
“The Donate Life flag has become a national symbol of unity, remembrance and hope, while honoring those touched by donation and transplantation. Giving the gift of life is one of the most selfless legacies a person can leave behind,” said Krystal McCloud, South Texas Health System McAllen Intensive Care Unit Director. “The concept of a flag raising is to make a unified statement about the importance of donation and represent the great need for donors and encourage people to register as a donor.”
Three-Time Kidney Donor Recipient
In addition to the flag raising, the ceremony included special remarks by a three-time kidney donor recipient who talked about how the donations she received helped save her life. “I feel very blessed and thankful,” says Melissa De Los Rios, who took part in the event to help highlight the importance of having enough people sign up to donate. De Los Rios, 55, received her first kidney transplant after experiencing renal failure at age 21. About six years later, she underwent a second kidney transplant. Then approximately five years later, the second kidney began to fail, requiring a third transplant.
National Donate Life Month
With April designated as National Donate Life Month, South Texas Health System and TOSA hope the flag-raising event will help raise awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation and encourage Valley residents to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor. This year, the theme for Donate Life Month is “Make a Splash.”
“The title for this month is inspired by the natural world of a pond coming to life in the spring. Frogs and toads are a sign of healing and renewal, and water lilies represent hope,” said Kennetha Foster, System Chief Nursing Officer, South Texas Health System. “The lily pads we see on the surface of a pond are part of a much bigger ecosystem that’s beneath the water, so the water lily reminds us of the support and collaboration that is required to support organ donation, which needs the hope to bloom.”
South Texas Health System works closely and collaboratively with Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, San Antonio Eye Bank and Texas Donor Network in their efforts to increase awareness about organ, tissue and eye donations. And the public response has been inspiring. In 2022, STHS had its highest number of donors in a decade and the highest number in the entire Rio Grande Valley, according to TOSA. The system reported 11 organ donations with 34 total organs transplanted, 38 tissue donors and 38 cornea donors.
“The loss of a loved one is nothing short of heartbreaking, but the decision to become an organ donor can save up to eight lives, forever changing the course of the recipients’ lives,” says Foster. “STHS McAllen and our facilities saw a tremendous response to our public awareness efforts last year, and we’re celebrating the generosity of our donors and their families this April and always.”
For those who’ve been donor recipients, like De Los Rios, they hope by sharing their personal struggles to stay alive will inspire others to register. “All I can say is, everyone, please sign up to be a donor,” said De Los Rios.
Donate Life Events
South Texas Health System will host additional Donate Life events at its acute care facilities. STHS Edinburg is scheduled to host a special ceremony on Thursday, April 13 at 10:00 a.m., while STHS Heart will host its event on Thursday, April 27 at 2:00 p.m. For complete event details, please visit the STHS Facebook Events page.