Friday, Sept. 12, 2014
Prior to driving at lightning-fast speeds and cheering on family members at the Nationwide Series race in Richmond last week, two NASCAR drivers and a prominent driver’s mother took a moment to slow down and visit Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR).
On Sept. 3, no. 52 driver Joey Gase spoke about his personal story of organ donation at “Racing to Save Lives: A Conversation with Joey Gase about Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation .” The event was hosted by the VCU Center for Interprofessional Education and presented by Donate Life Virginia, a coalition of organ procurement organizations, eye banks, transplant centers and others committed to donation and transplantation. Donate Life Virginia maintains the Virginia Donor Registry, DonateLifeVirginia.org.
When his mother died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 2011, the then-18-year-old Gase made the decision to donate her organs, eyes and tissue in order to help save and heal the lives of others – 66 others, in fact.
“I firsthandedly didn’t know about donation until I was thrown into it with my mom’s passing,” Gase said. “She has helped 66 people, and I’m seeing how big of an impact it made, and is affecting these people’s whole families. They’re so thankful for their gift that they don’t even know how to put it into words.”
Gase was joined by panel members Alan Dow, M.D., assistant vice president of Health Sciences for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care at VCU Medical Center; Rev. Alma Hassell, manager of Clinical Services in the VCU Health System’s Department of Pastoral Care; Debbie Hutt with LifeNet Heatlh; Hilary Czarda with Donate Life Virginia; and liver and kidney transplant recipient Darrell Herlinger. Gase and his fellow panelists discussed the striking numbers that shed light on the importance of organ donation. For instance, more than 120,000 people in the country are awaiting lifesaving transplants -- 3,200 of them in Virginia. Eighteen patients die every day in the U.S. awaiting a transplant.
“We need to help fix that and dismiss any misconceptions about donation – and there are many,” Gase said.
The following day, no. 3 driver Austin Dillon visited CHoR’s Brook Road Campus, where he visited very excited patients in CHoR's Transitional Care Unit, including some huge sports fans. This is Dillon’s second year visiting the residents at CHoR.
Dillon also visited Brook Road’s dental clinic, where he surprised young patients who were there for their check-ups.
On race day, Mary Lou Hamlin, mother of no. 11 Denny Hamlin, presented a $50,000 check on behalf of the Denny Hamlin Foundation to CHoR with proceeds from the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown race held last April. The donation represents the third and final installment of the $150,000 grant commitment made in 2012 to help fund the Denny Hamlin Cystic Fibrosis Research Lab at CHoR and support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation-accredited Therapeutics Development Center at VCU.
Afterwards, she got a tour of the Rubin lab in the Hermes A. Kontos Medical Sciences Building where she participated in hands-on activities. This lab conducts research focusing on aerosol therapy and airway clearance for lung disease.
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