Local News

Some Turn To Spiritual Advice About Organ Donation

Posted February 24, 2003 4:52 a.m. EST

— Jesica Santillan, who died after a second heart-lung transplant, is causing some ministers to encourage believers to talk about the possibility of organ donation.

Judi Etheridge directs the preschool ministry at Raleigh Road Baptist Church in Wilson. For her, it is an appropriate job because a few years ago, the heart of an 18-year old saved her life.

"Things steadily began to improve and by God's grace, everything has improved each day and each year, and now I feel like I'm doing very well," she said.

Etheridge is the kind of success story that donation advocates like to see. The nonprofit organization,

Carolina Donor Services

, is asking ministers to encourage the faithful to talk about organ donation.

"Ministers are so important, particularly here in the South and in eastern North Carolina more than anything, and the reason is because people listen to their pastors, they trust them and they understand what it is they're trying to say," said Diane Washington of Carolina Donor Services.

The Rev. Michael Singer said he is doing just that at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Kinston.

"It's important for husbands and wives, children and parents to sit down and talk, when everybody's reasonably healthy, when they can make the decision now," he said.

Singer is quick to admit that it is a difficult topic for families, but for Etheridge, it is a gift she appreciates every day.

"Those people hold a very special place in the hearts of people like myself who would not be here were in not for, first the grace of God, but also for the hearts of those who made that decision to give," she said.

Some ministers say that organ donations are becoming more accepted now as people learn about the process and meet recipients.