Recently, David Manuel posted a picture of himself on Facebook sporting a dapper striped jacket and checked dress shirt, announcing proudly: “Today is National Donate Life Blue & Green Day! I am wearing my colors!!”
Manuel, Recreational and Cultural Arts Manager, received nearly 100 “likes” on the photo from friends cheering him on with thumbs up and hearts on his social media page.
Those who are close to Manuel know that he has come a long way. Three and a half years ago, his future was bleak. He didn’t know if he would live. He says God granted him grace and a new lease on life after he received a liver transplant. The sudden death of a 21-year-old man who had a seizure made it possible for Manuel to receive the liver he needed to live.
As April is observed across the country as National Donate Life Month, Manuel is doing his part to spread the message that organ donors are critical and he is especially encouraging African Americans and Hispanics to sign up to become donors.
“Everyday 22 people die waiting on organs and 60 percent of them are African Americans and Hispanics,” said Manuel.
Manual said he can’t thank his donor family enough for saving his life. Their unselfish decision to give the organs of their loved one meant someone else could live. Dylan, a young white man, gave his organs to five men, including Manuel.
“Dylan was the same age as my son and I will be forever grateful for him,” said Manuel, who received his gift of life on Oct. 29, 1014.
Two weeks after his surgery, Manuel wrote a letter to the donor family to express his deep gratitude for his second chance at life. He did not receive a response, however, until Mother’s Day of 2017 when the phone rang unexpectedly. It was his donor’s mother.
She shared that in life, Dylan had been creative, outgoing and funny. He loved paintball and horses. Because Dylan had not made a decision about organ donation before he passed, the opportunity was presented to his family and his parents chose to save lives—like Manuel’s—through organ donation.
Manuel and his wife, Karren, traveled to Dylan’s hometown in Louisiana, to meet Dylan’s mother and sister (Dylan’s father had passed in 2015) and to thank them in person. The four spent the day sharing stories. Now, these two families are connected for life and consider each other to be extended family, Manuel said.
“I wouldn’t be here today, if someone hadn’t given me the gift of life,” Manuel said in retrospect. “Everything I do in my life, I do for my family, and now my extended family, in memory of Dylan.”
Contact Donate Life Georgia to find out how you can become a donor at 866-577-4273.