Although Lon Coleman lost his brother to a car accident years ago, his brother’s heart beats on — in the body of another.
When Coleman’s family agreed to donate the brother’s 20-year-old organs, he expected the gesture would be saving lives; what he didn’t see coming was the tight-knit relationship that would develop with the recipient, then 52-year-old Terry Gould.
“It’s almost beyond friendship,” Coleman said. “I could say we’re all family.”
Coleman and Gould have expanded their unique experience to speaking around the country about the benefits of organ donations. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, the two spoke at MSU. The pair came to MSU for the University Activities Board, or UAB, event, Real Heroes: No Capes, No Masks, No Distraction 19:00:00s, a segment of the UAB Speaker Series.
Marketing senior and UAB Director of Leadership and Education Shannon McGreal-Miller said she organized the event to shed light on the not-so-glamorous topic of organ donations and the stigmas surrounding it. “There’s a lack of discussion,” McGreal-Miller said. “Sometimes, it might seem barbaric or taboo.”
In many countries, she said it is assumed people will donate organs unless voiced otherwise, whereas in America, it is the opposite.
“It really depends on the culture’s perspective,” McGreal-Miller said. “In the U.S., there’s a lack of cultural awareness.”
Coleman said college students might be unaware of the urgency of opting in.
His brother was just 20 years old when his life was taken by a car accident. Coleman said many students of that same age might forget just how fleeting life can be.
“Stereotypically, organ donation isn’t something a college student thinks about; (they) kind of think (they’re) indestructible,” he said.
Advertising freshman Sierra Resovsky said she was inspired to sign up to donate her organs after she saw the movie “Seven Pounds.”
Although she knows some people think donating organs is strange, she said she sees it as a good service.
“I thought it’s a good way to help people,” she said.
In addition to illuminating the topic for students, McGreal-Miller said the event allowed heroes, who might otherwise be overlooked, an opportunity to share their stories.
“It’s amazing the impact they have on the community,” she said. “We don’t hear from them a lot, and so we wanted to give them a voice.”
Coleman said while he usually speaks to medical professionals, his goal for the college audience was similar. He said his talks are all about awareness.
“It’s not exactly an attractive topic to discuss,” Coleman said. “No one wants to talk about their own person or their own death at any point. A lot of people try to avoid it by using the stereotypical misconceptions or religion. … Hopefully some of that stuff can be cleared up and people can go away with a better knowledge.”