RICHMOND, Va. -- As a part of National Minority Donor Awareness Month, CBS 6 dedicated an evening broadcast to telling the voices of those who have received or are waiting to receive organ donations. The broadcast additionally told the stories of the local and national legislation and progress that aims to better the process for those looking to receive an organ donation.
In Richmond, Greg McQuade spoke with 36-year-old Shanaha Brown, who has been living with a rare form of kidney disease called APOL 1 Gene. When Brown eventually needed a kidney transplant, she never imagined that her donor has been living under the same roof as her - her husband Daniel Brown. The transplant surgery was a success, according to Dr. Amit Sharma, and both husband and wife are recovering well at home. Shanaha says she can never repay her courageous husband.
Wayne Covil spoke to four-year-old Skyla Travis and 50-year-old Kelvin Douglas. Skyla and Kelvin are friends - and they both need an organ donation to fight the kidney and liver illnesses they are living with.
National Minority Donor Awareness Month recognizes the disparities in organ rejection and failure among communities of color.
GeNienne Samuels spoke with Anna Czene of CareDx, Inc. who said it was important to know that in multicultural communities, individuals are three times more likely to experience organ failures, specifically for heart and kidney.
"It's really important for minorities to check that box, on your DMV and sign up to be an organ donor, but also to have those important conversations. So if the time should arise, as a family, you're prepared to make that tough decision," Czene said.
In 2014, Heather Walsh's brother-in-law Tom, found himself on a waiting list after finding out that he needed a new liver.
"When it came time, they were looking for anybody who was willing to go get checked to see if they were a match," Walsh said. "I remember saying to him, 'I’ll go get checked. But I truly know in my heart, that it’s going to be me.' We’re not blood-related.”
Heather ended up being a perfect match for Tom, donating 60% of her liver to her brother-in-law.
Now fully recovered, Tom has another chance at life.
The National Donor Memorial in Richmond carries a hidden, symbolic meaning within its different rooms - all memorializing those who received and donated organs.
Bill Fitzgerald spoke to UNOS spokesperson Anne Paschke about the significance of the memorial.
"The water symbolizes the tears they shed when they lose their loved one," Paschke said. "It also symbolizes the tears the recipient might have when they learn they're going to get a transplant, that gift of life."
You can learn visit and learn more about the National Donor Memorial, here.
GeNienne Samuels told the story of Sam Kirton, a man who eventually received a lung transplant after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, and given only two to five years to live.
CBS 6, along with Virginia Credit Union donated $500 toward the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. You can read more about the foundation, as well as donate and register for the PFF walk, here.
Nationally, Congress unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that would allow changes to how organ transplants are managed across the country. All the bill needs is a signature from President Joe Biden.
The system that currently manages organ donation in the country, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network is run by a Richmond-based nonprofit the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS.
OPTN's management has come under scrutiny for its handling of organ donations by a number of U.S. Senators, prompting new legislation to right the wrongs of current organ transplantation system.
Every day CBS 6 is giving a voice to the stories happening in your community. If you have a story idea, email our team at NewsTips@wtvr.com or click here to submit a tip.
EAT IT, VIRGINIA restaurant news and interviews