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Organ Donation is a Gift of Life: Meet Charles

Organ Donation is a Gift of Life: Meet Charles

North Oaks Health System and the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA) work closely together to educate our community about organ donation and transplantation. In this issue’s feature, Charles Henderson, a heart recipient and Hammond resident, shares with us how one person’s Gift of Life forever changed his life.

Tell us about your transplant experience:

In 2004, I wasn't feeling well and went to the North Oaks ER to find out that I had a heart attack at age 48. Followed by quadruple bypass surgeries, I continued with a 10 year journey as a cardiac patient. When the cardiologist couldn’t help anymore, I was referred to the transplant. There we found out that my heart was functioning at less than 15% so I was placed on the list for a heart transplant. Two months later, on November 4, 2014, I received the call that a new heart was a match for me. I recently celebrated my 7 year heart transplant anniversary with God’s blessing and gift from my hero.

What does organ donation mean to you and your family?

Organ donation is one of the greatest gifts. For me and my family, it has given me an opportunity to spend more time with them. Sharing the love of family means more time with grandchildren and great grandchildren. I have 5 children, 18 grandchildren and I’ve just been blessed with my 7th great grandchild. All of my great grandchildren were born after my transplant so that is very special for me.

Have you had the opportunity to connect with your donor hero’s family?

Yes, I wrote a letter to my donor family within a couple of months of my transplant. I heard back from them via letter and within 1 year of my transplant we were able to meet in person. Through my hero’s great gift of love, David “Dudu” Cologne gave me the opportunity to connect with my donor family more and find out about his life and how he lived and enjoyed life. We both have a connection to music as I am a singer in my church choir and “Dudu” was an avid guitarist, self taught. With that connection, it makes me feel even closer to him as if I knew him.

If you met a family that was on the fence about donation what would you share with them?

If I met a family on the fence about donation, I would share my personal experience with transplant and hope that they would change their minds and hearts about it. Let them know how great a gift it is to be able to give the gift of life to someone in need. To share that love and life that God has given them.

I understand you volunteer with LOPA. What made you become a LOPA volunteer and what does volunteering do for you?

I became a volunteer to give back to the community and show my gratitude. I learned as a volunteer that instead of talking to 20-30 people about my personal experience, I can also have the opportunity to reach out to 20-30,000 in order to spread the word about the greatest gift, the gift of love and life. Volunteering has given me the chance to encourage others to become donors. Growing up, we all wanted to be super heroes. Volunteering gives me that opportunity. If you save someone’s life, you ARE a hero.