Tampa Bay women remind all, April is Donate Life month - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa Bay women remind all, April is Donate Life month

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Cherrie Paul received kidney in 2011 Cherrie Paul received kidney in 2011

Orkiya Andrews will never forget the summer her world changed forever.

It was mid-August 2010 when her 17-year-old son Byron Patty Jr. was gunned down in a robbery attempt. He was playing dice in Tampa's Belmont Heights with friends, when police say Reginald Jenkins came up to rob them and fired a shot. The bullet passed through one teen and hit Patty. 

Andrews had spoken with her son just 45 minutes before the shooting.

"He looked at me and said, mom I love you!  I said I love you too son," she recalled.  

Andrews remembers the moment she got the news. She was at home finishing laundry when she got a startling knock at the door.

"I slung the door open and the young man that was standing there said, Byron's been shot. And when he said that I kind of fell back."

She rushed to where it happened, moving so fast she didn't even put on her shoes. Her youngest son was already in the car waiting, screaming for her to hurry. She arrived at the crime scene within minutes.

"So as I looked I saw a young man sitting on the curb, so my heart was relieved. But then when I got over there where the young man was, it wasn't my son," she said fighting tears. "So I looked and said that's not my son. They said her son is the other one," Andrews recalled.

 Her son was on the ground... in really bad shape. She went to him.

"I did the only thing I knew to do. I got down on my knees and I put my hand in his hand and my other hand on his heart and I told him how much I loved him."

Paramedics took Patty to the hospital. Andrews followed in her car.

"Soon as I got to there, the first thing somebody taking you to a room and telling you soon as you get there, 'your son's not gonna make it.' That was like the worst thing in the world," Andrews struggled to say. Patty struggled to survive.

"3:22 p.m., I will never forget on that next day, they told me he had completely stopped breathing."

Byron Patty Jr. died. While at the hospital, someone from LifeLink approached Andrews to ask about organ donation. It's something she had never thought she'd ever have to think about. She said yes.

"The thought that came to me was, my son could save somebody else's life." 

He did. Six lives. One kidney and his pancreas saved a 54-year-old man. His other kidney went to a 71-year-old man. His liver saved a 5-year-old little boy, and his heart, a 21-year-old man. His lungs saved two men; one  63, the other 70.

"Six lives. When they said it to me, all I could do was kind of fall back on the couch," Andrews said. 

Now she is turning her pain into advocacy. She travels the Tampa Bay area telling her son's story, hoping to encourage others to become organ and tissue donors.

April is Donate Life Month

April is National Donate Life month.  It's a time to talk about the importance of organ and tissue donation. 

Tampa resident Cherrie Paul knows first hand how important it is.

After heart troubles a few years ago and years of diabetes brought on by childbirth decades ago, Paul found out she needed a kidney. She sought out friends and family who all got tested. None were a match. 

And after a year of dialysis, waiting and praying, on Labor Day morning 2011, she got one.

"I just feel so blessed," Paul said. She received the call about a kidney early that morning and rushed to the hospital.

 "I don't know my donor, but I'm so grateful and my thoughts are always with his family and the loss they suffered but yet the generosity that they gave," Paul said.

Cherrie Paul was certainly not alone. 

Look at these statistics from Donate Life America.

  • More than 115,000 men, women and children currently need lifesaving organ transplants.
  • Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
  • An average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant.
  • In 2011, there were 8,127 deceased organ donors and 6,017 living organ donors resulting in 28,535 organ transplants.
  • Last year, more than 42,000 grafts were made available for transplant by eye banks within the United States.
  • According to research, 98% of all adults have heard about organ donation and 86% have heard of tissue donation.
  • 90% of Americans say they support donation, but only 30% know the essential steps to take to be a donor.

Betsy Edwards with the LifeLink Foundation said there are still a lot of stigmas people can't seem to get over when it comes to donating organs. 

"Probably one of the biggest ones is that infamous, 'if I have organ donor on my license, they're not going to try to save my life as hard'.. when in fact, organ donation never comes into play until every last life saving measure has been made on behalf of a patient," Edwards said.

Paul encourages people to get over whatever fears they may have and become donors because life depends on it. 

"I'm so grateful to be alive and see my grand-baby. He was born last November and is the joy of my life. So life is good," she said.

And though life has forever changed for Orkiya Andrews with the loss of her son, she is glad in death, he gave life to so many others. 

"It was a joy and at the same time it was pain," Andrews said.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: @wflatampa @RodCarterwfla
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