James Carter of Underhill, Vt., was honored with the 2011 National Donor Memorial Award of Excellence for his extraordinary volunteer efforts in promoting organ donation for more than two decades. The award was presented during the June board meeting of the Organ Procurement Transplantation Network and United Network for Organ Sharing (OPTN/UNOS) in Richmond, where UNOS is headquartered.
“Jim Carter is a man with a mission,” noted Jeffrey Orlowski, chief executive officer of the Center for Donation and Transplant, the organ procurement organization, based in Albany, N.Y., which submitted the nomination. “Jim is a donor father who has spread the word about organ donation throughout the Vermont region for many, many years to thousands of people. We could not ever cover as much ground as Jim has with just our organization’s staff,” he said.
Almost 21 years ago, Mr. Carter’s daughter Andrea, then a 17-year-old high school student, died after the truck in which she was riding was hit by another vehicle. She was not wearing a seatbelt. Knowing how caring their daughter was, Jim and his wife, Sue, consented to donation. Andrea’s heart, kidneys, liver and corneas were all recovered for transplantation. Following Andrea’s death, Mr. Carter became involved in support groups for donor families and recipients as well as providing community outreach and education programs. His two main themes: the importance of seat belt safety and the life-saving benefits of organ donation. To date, he has given thousands of presentations during drivers’ education classes, traveling throughout Vermont to ensure that young people are properly educated about donation. In addition, he has appeared in numerous news articles promoting organ donation.
“I never get tired of talking about Andrea and about donation,” Jim says. “The act of donating meant a lot to me and my family, and the feedback I get from my volunteering makes me feel like I am really making a difference.”
The National Donor Memorial Award of Excellence was established in 2010 to recognize exceptional advocates for organ and tissue donation, especially “unsung heroes” who have not received recognition at a national level for their efforts. Nominations for the award were sought from all of the organ procurement organizations in the United States. For this year’s award, 19 nominations from around the country were received. All nominees received a certificate of recognition.
“Selecting one winner from all the nominations was a challenge, because each candidate is an awesome reflection of the thousands of people ‘paying it forward’ in this country,” commented Mary Nachreiner, OPTN/UNOS vice president for patient and donor affairs. “It is humbling to see how much these people – most of them donor family members – give of themselves to support the mission of the transplant community. They – and thousands more like them – are truly lifesavers,” she said.
UNOS is a private, non-profit organization linking all members of the organ procurement, transplantation and histocompatibility communities. It administers the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network under contract with the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. UNOS provides the OPTN with a functional, effective management system incorporating the UNOS Board of Directors, committees and regional membership structure to operate OPTN elements and activities.
The National Donor Memorial, supported entirely by private and charitable contributions, honors organ and tissue donors and their families who have saved and enhanced the lives of others through their generous gifts.