Stephanie Baker made a life-saving decision when she donated her teenage daughter’s organs.

Years later she became a donor recipient.

“It is one of the most wonderful things any person can do,” said Baker. “It saves so many lives.”

The need for organ and tissue donors is on the rise, so donors, recipients and their families were recently honored at an event celebrating National Donate Life Month and National Organ & Tissue Awareness Month.

The St. John Transplant Center was recently awarded the only five-star rating in Oklahoma by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients and held the event in partnership with LifeShare of Oklahoma, a program that pairs donors with recipients.

Last month, medical officials, donors, recipients and families gathered for a flag-raising and balloon release at St. John Medical Center.

“We are very proud that our outcomes are some of the best in the region,” said Haley Lewis, outreach coordinator at the St. John Transplant Center. “We’ve been here for 30 years and continue to grow our program.

“It is really wonderful to see what happens here. We are able to often turn what was a tragedy into something wonderful.”

Baker of Talala and Cheryl Manley of Claremore are both mothers of donors and recipients.

In fact, Manley was a kidney donor to Baker.

“It is a total honor to be able to give something to save a life,” said Manley. “It is very humbling to see what a huge difference you can make for someone.

“My daughter’s heart went to a member of our church. It is amazing.”

The average wait time at the St. John Transplant Center is about 21 months. That compares with the national average of four to five years.

“We are a smaller center than many others, but it is a credit to our donor program (in association with LifeShare),” said Lewis. “There are so many people willing to donate. We live in a very generous community.

“So, we simply wanted to celebrate our donors. We are always looking for ways to thank them for saving so many lives.”

The St. John Transplant Center is a regional kidney transplant program serving patients in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri. The center performed a record number of transplants (49) in 2017; 2016 saw 44 transplants.

“It is an honor to be counted among the best, and it reflects our transplant team’s commitment to delivering the highest quality care,” said Dr. Irfan Kundi, medical director of the St. John Transplant Center.

The St. John Transplant Center recently held an Living Donor Gala to honor kidney donors.

Oklahoma has more than 4,500 patients on dialysis and more than 500 patients actively listed and waiting for a kidney transplant.

Every 10 minutes someone is added to the national transplant waiting list and on average 20 people die each day waiting on a transplant.

Oklahoma ranks 10th in at-risk population for end-stage renal disease in the nation.

Baker became a donor mother on May 29, 2001. Manley became a donor mother Nov. 26, 1996.

They both remembered those days without hesitation.

“It was not a hard decision to make to be a donor mother, but it came on what was obviously a very difficult day for us as a family,” said Baker. “When something happens to your family, it is a very traumatic time.

“However, I don’t believe the decision for my daughter to be an organ donor was difficult. It could help someone.”

Manley feels the same.

“I’ve been preaching the gift of being an organ donor for many years,” said Manley. “I know what a wonderful gift it is for someone.

“So, when I had a chance to be a living donor, and it was going to help my friend Stephanie, it was a natural.”

John Klein 918-581-8368

Twitter: @JohnKleinTW

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John Klein 918-581-8368

Twitter: @JohnKleinTW

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