Monday, April 15, 2019

When Tragedy Gives Life

UMC issued the following press release written by Ruth Cummins.


Her son, Robin Rhodes said, was a good ole’ country boy and fisherman with a big heart.

So when Randy Rhodes died tragically after an October 2014 auto accident, she knew what she needed to do.

“The choice we made when we chose to donate his organs was something he would have done,” said Rhodes, a Laurel resident. “He would have given anyone the shirt off his back. He was a giver.”

Randy’s heart, liver, lungs and kidneys gave new life to recipients in Mississippi and beyond the state’s borders. Those gifts were facilitated by the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency, the federally designated organ and tissue procurement organization for most of the state that carries out legwork required to pair matching recipients to organs as they become available.

Both organ recipients and the families of donors were honored April 12 at Legacy Day, an annual celebration hosted by MORA and the University of Mississippi Medical Center on the UMMC campus. Dozens of people converged to reminisce, share stories, greet UMMC transplant caregivers and enjoy a balloon release and other activities.

Immediately after her husband, Jackson Police Corporal Allen Harper, died in April 2017 in an on-the-job motorcycle accident, his wife at first hesitated to donate his organs and tissue. “I wanted to be selfish,” said Chequetta Harper.

“But he had always been a giver. How could I be so selfish to say no?” Harper told the crowd. “You need to put that little heart on your driver’s license. A few days ago, I renewed my license, and I said yes to that again. I wanted to make sure I’ll be a donor.”

Family members of donors “have experienced absolute tragedy, and they have the selflessness to make decisions that will save lives,” said Dr. Mark Earl, associate professor of surgery and a transplant surgeon. “They’re trying to make something good out of something that is so devastating.”

Transplant, Earl said, “offers the only, and most durable, treatment for organ failure. Recipients have the courage to face death and come out on the other side.”

When 20-year-old Randy died at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Rhodes said, things were in blur for her. “That’s just what happens when you get that call in the middle of the night,” she said. “But, it wasn’t a hard decision to donate his organs. That is what he would have wanted.”

Like many family members of organ donors and organ recipients, Rhodes wrote letters to the people who got her family member’s organs. MORA requires that both parties remain anonymous, so Rhodes didn’t know who she was writing to – but only that MORA would do its best to deliver the letters.

Unless both the donor family and their loved one’s organ recipient say they want to communicate, MORA keeps all information confidential.

“I wrote a generic letter to every recipient except the heart recipient,” Rhodes said. “I never got anything back, and I was at the point where I was about to give up. Then, I found out that there had been some miscommunication.”

A MORA employee called with the news: Randy’s liver recipient wanted to meet the family. “We communicated over the phone,” Rhodes said of Pearl resident Fleeta Hutchison.

The families met in Magee for lunch in spring 2018. “It was nice,” Rhodes said.

“I can’t imagine being in her shoes and being as strong as she is,” Hutchison said of Rhodes.

Rhodes especially wanted to meet a particular recipient of one of Randy’s organs. “Randy had a heart of gold. I wanted to reach out to the person who got his heart.”

She and her family in August 2018 met Kentucky resident and avid outdoorsman Jerry Leach. Rhodes got to listen to her son’s heart beating in Leach’s chest when the two families met up in Chattanooga. It wasn’t the first time she’d heard it.


“When we talked earlier, I asked them if they could record the heartbeat the next time they went to the doctor, and they said absolutely,” Rhodes said. “But his daughter that same day sent me a video and told me not to open it until I got home from work.

“She had recorded his heartbeat from a stethoscope. She said that we aren’t promised tomorrow, so we wanted to make sure you got this,” Rhodes said. She and Leach “have a bond that is unimaginable. It was a match made in heaven.”

You might say they’re a little bit biased, but both Rhodes and Hutchison encourage families, even in the worst moments of their lives, to consider giving the gift of life.

“He wasn’t using those organs,” Rhodes said. “He was already in heaven. For him to be able to help someone continue to live is just amazing.”

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

God bless these people.

Anonymous said...


I'm a organ donor, however, one of my organ is to small & rarely used and it keeps getting rejected..

Anonymous said...

Thank you. God bless.

Anonymous said...

Does UMC pay you to print their biweekly propaganda? You should put “advertisement “ with each of these stories.

Anonymous said...

what’s with the UMC haters? You’ve probably never needed a level 1 trauma center or Level 4 NICU. lucky you.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing, KF.

Anonymous said...

6:55 - You need to stop pulling on it. That won't help. Just buy another truck with bigger tires and accept your fate. If that doesn't help, get a tattoo and enroll in trooper school.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 8:57. Why so many endorsements for UMC? Shouldn't these be labeled advertisements?

Anonymous said...

8:57 and 10:39... UMMC does a lot of stupid things, and suffers from inefficiency like most other state institutions. But one of the shining lights coming from that facility in the past few years is Transplant. That department is not perfect, but they are positively changing lives every day. The surgical teams at this facility are top notch, and I would gladly trust them with my care if the need ever arose. This is simply a good reminder that we all need to consider organ donation, and it can be done in our own backyard, not just UAB.

Anonymous said...

8:57/10:39

Not certain if Baptist or St D does significant organ transplants but, hey, if you wanna go there or to some county med centers to get your transplants, have at it.

Anonymous said...

While Ms has some short comings, UMMC has an Outstanding Record related to Transplants. The last thing we can ever do for someone else after we meet our demise is Donate Organs. Mine will be donated as yours should be-after all we've died at this point. It takes a weak minded-short sighted person to see this differently-you're gonna look the same in the Casket. While some of us are Blessed with good Health-others aren't as fortunate and deserve to make the Best of a Bad situation.

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This is definitely a Beaver production.


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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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