CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Charleston Police Officer Cassie Johnson was shot in the line of duty, Tuesday Dec. 1 and was pronounced dead this evening by Police Chief James “Tyke” Hunt, who said in a press conference, “Johnson provided her service up to her last breath, for she decided years ago to be an organ donor.”
The need for organ donors, like Johnson, is great nationwide. According to the “Center for Organ Recovery and Education” (CORE), nearly 110,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list for an organ transplant. In West Virginia alone, more than 300 residents wait to have their lives saved.
Dunbar-native Vicky Keene was one of those West Virginians, desperately in need of a pair of lungs. She had battled COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and Emphysema for nine years and received a double-lung transplant this past July.
After waiting a year and a half for her transplants, Vicky got her miracle call. “I ran around in circles in my room… and all kinds of things go through your head – do I want to go, do I want to do this, I’m afraid, but you know, God gives you peace,” said Vicky.
Every day, 20 people die waiting for a transplant because too few people are registered and too few organs are available.
According to CORE, West Virginia is one of the lowest states ranked in terms of organ donor registration. Roughly 35-percent of the state’s population is registered.
Many people believe religion will stop individuals from becoming an organ donor, which is one of the largest misconceptions surrounding organ donating.
CORE Donor Family Support Coordinator, Jessica Smithwheeler said, “there’s other misconceptions like ‘I’m too old’, ‘I’m too sick’. No one is too old to give that gift of life and nobody’s too sick to give that gift of life.”
That gift can give life to eight people. Organs that can be transplanted include the heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas, intestines and lungs.
Additionally, an organ donor can give the gift of sight to two people and tissue transplants to 75 people.
In Officer Cassie Johnson’s case, she could potentially help up to 85 recipients – like Vicky.
“She’s a hero, she was a hero in life and she’s a hero in death because her organs will save so many people,” said Vicky.
Becoming an organ donor is a simple process. You can register online or go to your local DMV.