NEW LEXINGTON — A sophomore at Crooksville High School helped to bring awareness to the importance of organ donation by raising a Donate Life flag at the Perry County District Library Oct. 18.
Darby Bolyard is a kidney and liver recipient whose life was saved by organ donation. Darby, her family and the Perry County District Library partnered with Lifeline of Ohio to raise a Donate Life flag to help inspire the residents of Perry County to recognize the difference they can make as an organ, eye and tissue donor.
Darby’s family knew when she was only five weeks old that one day Darby would need a kidney transplant. The then infant was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called recessive polycystic kidney disease.
Knowing Darby needed a donor kidney, the family held a blood drive at Crooksville High School so family members could be tested to see if they were a match. Contact was also made with the American Red Cross from Muskingum County. Over 200 people donated blood during the drive that day. It remains the largest blood drive to happen in Perry, Muskingum, and Morgan counties to date and it is how Darby met her first donor.
Lori Gaitten, who was a donor recruitment representative with the American Red Cross at the time, volunteered to be tested to see if she was a match after learning she and Darby were the same blood type. She donated one of her kidneys to Darby.
Everything seemed to be going good for Darby for a few years until February 2017 when she was told she should get a liver transplant as well as another kidney.
In July of 2017 Darby received the news that a donor had been found.
“I had stayed up that night watching Garfield, everyone else went to bed. About two hours later my mom woke me up to tell me they found an organ for me. I fell back asleep. She kept waking me telling me, ‘No we really have to go’,” Darby explained.
Her surgery took a combined total of 24 hours at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Her kidney and liver were replaced the same day due to the fear her kidney would stop working during the surgery. The fear was founded, with her kidney failed during the surgery and resulted in Darby having to do dialysis.
Since her surgery everything has been good for Darby. She has been able to compete on the Crooksville track team, is a basketball and football cheerleader, and is also on student council. She also explained that she is almost a straight A student.
“Math is terrible,” she joked about her one B grade in Algebra II.
“Everything worked exactly as it was supposed to,” Darby said.
When she graduates, Darby is still undecided on what she wants to do, saying she is considering something in journalism, psychiatry, or a career that would allow her to argue for a living.
Since her surgery, she has written letters to her second donor’s family and one day hopes to be able to meet them.
“We have been very blessed,” Darby’s mother Jacqueline said. “If someone hadn’t been willing to donate, Darby wouldn’t be here. This didn’t just impact one person’s life but it impacted all of our family and friends too. It doesn’t just impact the recipient when you donate, it impacts an entire community.”
When asked what she would say if people ask why they should sign up to be a donor, Darby said, “You have an impact with everything you donate. You donate one thing and you can save up to eight lives per donation. You can donate organs, blood, tissue, corneas, bones, and even veins.”
This was the third flag raising for Donate Life that Darby has been a part of. She also participated in the flag raising in Morgan County and at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. While at the Cincinnati flag raising, Darby spoke to the gathered crowd of over 200 people and told her story.
There are currently 2,900 people in Ohio waiting for an organ to be donated.
In the U.S. as many as 20 men, women, and children die on a daily basis, due to the lack of an available organ.
Jessica Petersen with Lifeline of Ohio who arranged the Perry County flag raising event said, “This is important for Perry County because only 62 percent of residents are registered as organ donors in the county. Perhaps through Darby’s story and the flag at the library it will prompt people to register. We hope this will make people stop, take notice, and most importantly, take action to sign up as an organ, eye, and tissue donor. Lifeline of Ohio appreciates the support of its partners in Perry County for helping fulfill its mission of saving and enhancing lives through donation.”
Of the 37 counties in Ohio that Lifeline of Ohio serves, 25 of them now have a Donate Life flag raised somewhere in that county.
To sign up to be an organ donor, someone just has to log in to his or her BMV record and indicate they would like to be a donor. They can also join the Ohio Donor Registry through the lifelineofohio.org website.