You gotta have heart ... and kidneys ... and a few other organs to survive.
On Sunday, at 30 area black churches, members of Links, a volunteer service organization of women committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of black Americans and other people of African ancestry, will try to make sure those organs are available when they are needed.
The organization is partnering with Donate Life Tennessee to provide education on organ, eye and tissue donation and give congregation members the opportunity to sign the Tennessee Donor Registry.
Blacks have a greater incidence of kidney and heart disease than the general population, according to organizations affiliated with both diseases, and, in turn, need more transplants.
While blacks make up 13.1 percent of the United States population, according the U.S. Census Bureau, they received 18.1 percent of the transplants from 1988 to present, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Links members will be at churches such as First Baptist, East Eighth St., New Covenant Fellowship, New Emmanuel Baptist, New Monumental
Baptist, Orchard Knob Baptist, Second Missionary Baptist, Transforming Faith Baptist and Tucker Baptist.
"We'll be in large and small churches," said Donna Roddy, chairwoman of the organization's Health and Human Services Committee. Sunday's event will center on education.
Dawn Benjamin, public relations coordinator for Tennessee Donor Services, said information will be distributed via bulletin inserts. Copies of donor registration forms will be available, and handouts that offer statistics that illustrate the need will be provided.
Pastors have been asked to mention the need from the pulpit, she said, but that will be up to individual churches.
What black church members may not know, according to Benjamin, is that transplant success rates increase when organs are matched between members of the same ethnic background. However, she said that doesn't preclude transplant candidates being matched to donors from another racial or ethnic group.
Every major faith in the United States accepts organ, eye and tissue donation, according to www.organtransplants.org. But Benjamin said many people may not realize that or may believe their faith prohibits the practice.
Some "assume [their faith] would not support it," she said. "Maybe more so in the South. It wasn't long ago that most denominations didn't think you should be cremated."
Larry Manghane, 64, of Chattanooga, who had a heart transplant 10 years ago after enduring nearly 10 years of heart disease, said he hadn't heard much about donor services before his surgery in 2002 but has helped spread the word about Donate Life Tennessee's service since.
Unfortunately, he said, "a lot of people run from [signing a donor list]. But he said education programs like Sunday's might help. "The more you get involved," he said, "you may get a lot of people interested."
Roddy said this is not Links' first foray into pushing blacks to be more proactive on getting on donor registries. The project was a national Links initiative five years ago.
"People will say, 'I'm already on the registry.' But you need to sign up each time you renew your license," Roddy said.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...