PHOENIX - April marks National Donate Life Month. Nearly 115,000 people across the nation are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. About 2,200 of them live here in Arizona. Today, an emotional ceremony was held at HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Medical Center to honor all of Arizona’s heroes who gave the gift of life after death.
Samuel Duke was one of them. His parents Mike and Sydney Duke described their son being full of life, very loving, giving and fiercely independent.
When he was 16 years old, he checked the box on his driver’s license application to become an organ donor.
His dad, Mike Duke, recalled, “Typical Sam Duke fashion, he sat back in his chair, put his feet up on the desk, 'I’m not thinking I’ll be needing that stuff where I’m going, so they’re more than welcome to anything I leave behind.'”
Sadly, Samuel passed away on April 2, 2016. It was at that time his decision to be a donor saved the life of Morgan Cheney.
Cheney was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 2 years old. In 2015, she developed a bad cough that eventually got worse.
“I was literally dying. I could feel it. I didn’t know what was happening. When I got pneumonia, it felt like I was dying. It was awful. I was in bed, I couldn’t shower I couldn’t eat. I was helpless,” said Cheney.
Cheney needed a double lung transplant.
“To have an emergency double lung transplant and be bumped to a top high priority for a transplant, it’s a blessing and I also feel guilty because I also know there are people out there who wait years for transplants,” said Cheney.
But for Samuel’s parents, this entire process of reuniting with their son’s recipient, has been healing.
“He wouldn’t want the spotlight on him. He’d want the spotlight on Morgan. He’s able to rest a little better now,” Sydney said.
Not only did Samuel give the gift of life to Morgan, he also donated his kidneys and corneas to save the lives of four others.
“It’s special. It’s meaningful. There’s a lot of people I want to thank. It’s an amount of gratitude I’ve never felt before ... having the transplant and seeing how fast I went downhill, I have a whole new perspective on every day. I look around, I’m excited about the trees, the skies, I appreciate things more. We take that for granted -- I take that for granted, you have to bring yourself back down to Earth. Remember that you don’t know what tomorrow holds, and even on your worst days, try to find something you’re grateful for,” said Cheney.
If you would like to join the more than 3.3 million Arizonans who are registered as organ, tissue and cornea donors, you can sign up in honor of HonorHealth John C. Lincoln Medical Center here.
Arizonans can sign also up when they apply for or renew their driver’s license or ID at the MVD. Or register online at DonateLifeAZ.org or by calling 1-800-94-DONOR.