Baptist Health Hardin holds Donate Life flag raising ceremony

Baptist Health Hardin. April 20, 2024

ELIZABETHTOWN, KY (April 19, 2024) – Today, Baptist Health Hardin held a Donate Life flag raising ceremony in honor of National Donate Life Month which is observed annually in April. National Donate Life Month is a time set aside to raise awareness about the critical need for organ donation and to honor all those who have been touched by this gift of life. 

The flag raising ceremony honors organ donors and recipients and recognizes the strength of those still waiting for life-saving transplants. 

Ginger’s story

During the ceremony, guest speaker Gretchen Knight shared her family’s personal story of organ donation. On October 27, 2009, her sister, Ginger Beard, 40, arrived for work at 5:30 a.m. at Hardin Memorial Health (now Baptist Health Hardin). What should have been a normal day for the 15-year dietary team member, was anything but. Shortly after arrival, her complexion became grayish, and she struggled to breathe. 
It was a grave situation for Ginger, who was taken to the hospital’s emergency department, but passed suddenly from what was reported as a pulmonary embolism. Ginger’s final request was a call to her mother, Lottie Beard, who was then contacted by Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA). With the help and support of a family friend who noted Ginger’s kindness and heart for helping others, Lottie decided to consent to donation. 

Though the organ recipients’ identities were not revealed, the family was consoled that Ginger’s corneas helped a teacher facing blindness; her heart valve gave hope to a child with a congenital heart defect; and her tissues helped many people nationwide in need of skin grafts for burns and other conditions that rely on tissue donation.

“This decision allowed Ginger’s spirit of giving to continue,” said Gretchen. “Ginger’s story is not just about loss, but about how we can keep giving even after we’re gone. It’s a powerful reminder of the impact of organ and tissue donation, a cause that KODA champions every day.”
Each year the family celebrates Ginger’s life – and those lives she has touched – by gathering as a family for a meal to reflect on their memories with her, and afterward, visiting the cemetery. Gretchen holds one particular memory close to her heart. Two days before Ginger passed, they gathered at their farm where a friend took family photos that are cherished even more in light of her sudden loss.

Despite the sorrow of losing Ginger, organ donation has given a new meaning to life for Ginger’s family. Gretchen, her mother Lottie, and her son Stuart Knight have become active with KODA’s donor family coalition, helping raise awareness about organ donation at community events and gathering in support with other grieving families. 

Ginger was especially close to her nephew, Stuart, who remembered her fondly as a loving and aunt with a generous spirit and one that would do anything for him – or anyone. Stuart has played his guitar for butterfly releases at KODA Donor Recognition ceremonies.

“While one family is grieving, one is rejoicing because they have had this wonderful gift of a second chance at life through the donor’s gift,” said Gretchen.

The ceremony also featured Baptist Health Hardin Chief Medical Officer John Godfrey, MD, who discussed the statistics on organ donation and the significance of the gift to the many who benefit from it.

One minute of silence was observed to recognize the more than 100,000 patients waiting for a life-saving transplant. The ceremony concluding with the raising of the Donate Life flag, a visible reminder that each of us has the power to help by giving the greatest gift of all –the gift of life.

Why organ donation?

As many Kentuckians are renewing licenses and receiving the real ID, it is a great time to consider becoming an organ donor. Recent organ donation statistics say that over 1,000 people in Kentucky are waiting for organ donation, and hundreds more are on the list for life-enhancing transplants that include cornea and tissue transplants. You can take action by making a decision that could save up to eight lives.

Donation of the major organs is not the only donation that can save lives. Lesser known are tissue and eye donations. Tissue donation consists of bone, cartilage, fascia, heart valves, ligaments, pericardium, skin, tendons and veins. One tissue donor can heal more than 50 lives. Eye donation is another option. Each year, over 1,000 Kentuckians have their sight restored by a cornea transplant.

In 2023, KODA reached new records in lives saved and number of organ donors. 299 organ donors saved the lives of 729 Kentuckians by giving them the gift of a heart, kidney, liver, lungs and more. In addition, thousands were impacted through tissue donation.

Although there has been a steady increase in organ donors, 20 people still die each day waiting for a transplant. While 95% of U.S. adults say they support organ donation, only 54% are registered as donors. You can make the difference by registering as an organ donor today.

It’s easy to become a donor

In Kentucky, you can register to become an organ donor online or in person at your local DMV Office. In-person sign-up can be done when receiving or renewing a driver’s license or state ID card. To become a donor online, sign up at the Kentucky donor registry.

Your legacy continues when you share your life with others. For more information, visit Donate Life KY.