Tampa, FL – (February 14, 2021) – Since 1998, National Donor Day coincides with Valentine’s Day to bring hope to the 107,000 individuals on the national transplant waiting list, to celebrate renewed life given by generous organ and tissue donors and their families, highlight transplant recipients who have received an organ or tissue transplant and serve as a call to action encouraging others to also sign up to save lives as organ and tissue donors.
In early 2009 Syrita Ford visited her doctor for a routine yearly checkup; it turned out to be far from routine. Although she hadn’t felt sick, Syrita learned her kidneys only functioned at 20%. “Kidney failure is no picnic,” said Syrita, who began peritoneal dialysis at home. Every night for nine months Syrita’s husband, Rodney, connected her to a dialysis machine that helped to clean her blood by removing toxins and excess fluids. “In our darkest hour of knowing I needed a kidney transplant, a stranger passed by our exam room, stopped in, and shared her transplant experience with me and Rodney. Her confidence and positive attitude enlightened us, and helped us know we would be just fine,” said Syrita.
Syrita continued to work during the day and explored options for transplant. Rodney immediately offered to be tested as a living donor and found out he was a near perfect match. “I was ecstatic! I have always thought donating my kidney was a great honor,” remembered Rodney.
In March 2010, Rodney and Syrita were admitted to the hospital so that Rodney could provide his wife with a second chance at life. Fifteen hours after the transplant surgery, Rodney walked to Syrita’s room, where they embraced and started the next chapter of their lives. “Transplant for me was a multifaceted event. First, it was the best gift my husband ever gave me. Transplant freed me from being linked to the dialysis machine for eight hours each night. My quality of life was improved,” said Syrita. Rodney chimed in, “I love the experience of being a living donor. It has been 3,962 days, 566 weeks since the transplant and my health is great,” said Rodney.
Transplant allowed the couple to travel, spend quality time with friends and family and provided an opportunity for them to share their story together. Ten years later Rodney and Syrita continue to volunteer with LifeLink of Florida, a non-profit organization that works to recover organs and tissue on the west coast of Florida. They both want to help others by sharing their experience and have spoken to many audiences over the years. Some of their favorite groups are local churches and congregations as faith has played an important role in their lives and through their transplant journey. “Speaking in a public forum is my favorite way to promote donation,” said Syrita. Rodney hopes that they can alleviate any fears or trepidation people may have about donation. “I enjoy knowing I have improved the quality of Syrita’s life. I feel extremely blessed to be a donor,” Rodney added.
In Florida there are 5,000 people currently waiting for a lifesaving transplant. One donor has the potential to save eight lives through organ donation and can enhance the lives of up to 75 people through tissue donation. Anyone, regardless of their age or medical condition, can register as a donor online through the state donor registry, Donate Life Florida. In honor of National Donor Day, Syrita and Rodney encourage people to share life and love by registering to become organ and tissue donors at www.DonateLifeFlorida.org.
LifeLink of Florida is the federally designated, non-profit community service organization dedicated to the recovery of organs and tissues for transplantation in west and southwest Florida. LifeLink can be of assistance with scheduling virtual interviews or webinar presentations to media outlets, local schools, civic groups and businesses on the importance of donation; for more information on LifeLink, or to register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.LifeLinkFoundation.org.