Mary “Sue” Melton Jenkins spends every day living life to the fullest – walking two miles a day, spending time with her family and at her church, treasure hunting at yard sales and enjoying time in her yard and garden.
For a long time, those activities weren’t something she could enjoy. In fact, her very existence on this earth was for many years a day by day experience that didn’t offer her much hope of there being many more days.
But Jenkins was determined to not give up on life, and after a double-lung transplant she received in 2012, she not only is enjoying those aforementioned daily activities, but living what she describes as a thriving life.
Jenkins is featured on a calendar that tells the stories of organ donor recipients like her and others from across Kentucky.
April is designated as National Donate Life month and is celebrated each April to bring much needed attention to healing lives through organ, tissue, cornea and living donation. Through the entire year, Kentucky’s Circuit Clerks are dedicated to providing education and registering Kentuckians as organ donors while obtaining a license or ID.
After living with her donated set of lungs successfully since 2012, she now wonders why more people haven’t joined the registry list to become organ donors when they are no longer in need of their own organs, but can preserve the life of others who are on a donor list.
“Organ donation is absolutely the most selfless thing a person can do,” Jenkins says on the brief biography that surrounds the photo of her on the calendar in her flower garden. “I encourage everyone to become a registered organ donor. My donor family is the most amazing people for allowing their loved one to save my life.”
Prior to her double lung transplant operation, Jenkins had been plagued with lung problems for years, in and out of the hospital for 15 years, living with COPD and using oxygen around the clock in order to breath.
“I grew up early, married young, smoked – a lot,” Jenkins says, adding that she worked in the garment manufacturing industry for many years.
“Between the fabric fibers and smoking, the damage had taken its toll on my lungs,” Jenkins explains. “My diagnosis was COPD and emphysema.”
She spent a 10 year long stretch being on oxygen around the clock, and not being physically able to enjoy life.
Jenkins said that it wasn’t until her daughter’s pregnancy with her only grandson some 17 years ago that she was driven to change her desire of smoking, as she didn’t want her grandson to be exposed to second-hand smoke.
But the aforementioned smoking habit and years of being exposed to fabric dust, had already taken its toll on Jenkins’ lungs and while quitting her smoking habit allowed her to begin getting stronger, she was still forced to accept what her rehab efforts would be in order to allow her to become strong enough for a lung transplant.
Jenkins said her doctor explained that she would need to be sent home and placed with Hospice care, noting there was nothing further that could be done to help her in her present condition.
“Terminal diagnosis and Hospice was not on my agenda before my 60th birthday,” Jenkins said. “I needed and wanted a new set of lungs. Waiting is hard, but you must have faith and hope.”
“Finally, I was put on the waiting list for a double lung transplant,” Jenkins remembers.
“All because a loving, selfless, 30 year old said, ‘Of course I would want to help someone if I could – yes, place my name on the Registry’ I am not only alive, but thriving and enjoying life while taking good care of my gift that I received in 2012.”
Jenkins says she now enjoys an active, healthy lifestyle allowsingher to enjoy all of the activities she loves.
She adds that she especially loves telling her story and giving the message that transplants work.
“Why would someone not want to help others when they no longer can use things themselves,” her husband Darrell adds. “If people could see how others suffer while waiting and desperately needing the gift of life, they would never hesitate to join the Registry.”
With National Donate Life month in April, Jenkins urges everyone to become organ donors by signing up with The Organ Donation Registry.
Additional information about the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry may be learned at the organization’s web site: http://www.kyorgandonor.org/
“I have lived in Clinton County all my life and I am so very appreciative of the Circuit Court Clerk and the Deputies for supporting this mission, always asking their customers those very important questions that save peoples lives,” Jenkins said.
In Kentucky, in addition joining the Organ Donor Registry through it’s website, citizens can also become organ donors when they renew a driver’s license at the office of the Circuit Court Clerk.
Jake Staton, the Clinton County Circuit Court Clerk, and his staff of Deputy Circuit Court Clerk, will be able to answer any questions readers might have concerning becoming an organ donor when renewing a driver’s license or even before a driver’s license is due to be renewed.
Jenkins says she hopes everyone considers becoming an organ donor, noting it is a person’s best opportunity to give back, changing the life of not only the person receiving an organ, but for their family as well.
“I can enjoy my daughter, grandson and husband, and live life to the fullest,” Jenkins said. “It is a debt I can never repay, but my family and I are beyond grateful.”