Sycamore Shoals, Tennessee Donor Services raise awareness for organ, tissue donations

Published 5:40 pm Monday, April 2, 2018

“I don’t know who my donor was, but I thank them every day.”

Words provided by Johnson City native John Caso about his recent heart transplant surgery is just one of the different stories across the country that is being shared during the month of April.

Caso served as the featured speaker Monday morning as staff with Sycamore Shoals Hospital and Tennessee Donor Services held a flag-raising ceremony to commemorate Donate Life Month and to raise awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation.

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First diagnosed with a heart issue in 2004 at Johnson City Medical Center, Caso worked with staff of Mountain States — now known as Ballad Health — and doctors with Duke University over an 11-year period before the successful heart transplant was completed in 2016.

“I say it is the last act of love,” Caso said following the ceremony. “Really, how it affected my life is that I’m able to stand here and talk with you today. Without the gift. Without someone saying, ‘when I’m gone, take what you can and save other people.’ It’s simple as that. One person that is a donor can save up to eight others.”

Sycamore Shoals is just one of the hospitals under the Ballad Health umbrella that is partnering with Tennessee Donor Services to raise awareness for Donate Life America. The nonprofit organization uses the month of April as a way to promote tissue and organ donations across the country. Over the past 25 years, Donate Life America and the Donate Life community have registered nearly 138 million organ, eye and tissue donations across the United States, according to information provided by the organization’s website.

Zach Thurber, hospital services coordinator with Tennessee Donor Services, indicated the local chapter utilizes resources to raise awareness to the public about donating tissues and organs and indicated that Sycamore Shoals was recently able to contribute to the cause.

“This past year in 2017, a successful organ donation case took place at Sycamore Shoals,” Thurber said. “Someone’s life was saved at a facility in the country thanks to donation.”

Tennessee Donor Services offers a variety of tools to promote information to the public and offer accurate findings when it comes to donating, according to Thurber.

“We are here to clear up misconceptions and that everyone has an accurate viewpoint on what organ and tissue donation really is,” he said.

According to information provided by Thurber, 18 people die every day due to a donated organ not being readily available and that more than 100,000 people in the United States are still in need of life-saving organ transplants.

Transplantable organs and tissues that can be donated include the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas and small intestines. Tissues that can also be donated are the skin, bone, ligaments, veins and corneas.

Individuals can go through a variety of ways to become a donor. One of the more readily available ways is to either go through the Department of Motor Vehicles or register online.

To learn more about donations, visit or contact the local Tennessee Donor Services office at (423) 915-0808. Individuals can also visit the Donate Life website to learn more about the perks of donating and how to get involved during the month of April.