Harlingen, Brownsville honored for support of organ, tissue, eye donation

HARLINGEN/BROWNSVILLE – Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen and Brownsville were both recently recognized for their support of organ, eye, and tissue donation, and planning is underway for National Donate Life Month events in April to highlight the importance of such donations.

Tina Briones, EdD, RN, Patient Experience Officer for Valley Baptist-Harlingen, said both hospitals were recognized for platinum level support of organ, eye, and tissue donation by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

To reach platinum status, Briones said both hospitals stressed the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation through donation awareness programs including both employee and community education and outreach aimed at encouraging individuals to become organ, eye, and tissue donors.

Briones also mentioned Valley Baptist’s strong relationships with the San Antonio Eye Bank for the eye donation process, GenCure for tissue donation, in addition to the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance as important reasons for successful efforts at both Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Brownsville.

“We received this award for our dedication, commitment, and hard work,” she said. “We face many challenges in the Rio Grande Valley regarding organ donation. The most important thing is education.

The more education you have on how you can continue to give life after you have died is an important thing. Organ donation is about sharing and a commitment to life.”

In addition to the recent recognition, Briones said planning is underway for two annual “Wall of Heroes” events scheduled at both Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Brownsville.

During the events, Valley residents and others who have given the gift of life by donating organs, eyes, and tissue are honored by having their portraits displayed on a wall at both Valley Baptist-Harlingen and Brownsville.

For the fifth year, donor portraits will be unveiled on both walls during celebrations at each facility.

The celebrations are scheduled for Friday, March 31at 10 a.m. in Brownsville and 1 p.m. in Harlingen.

“We invite the families and acknowledge their willingness and courage to give their loved ones’ organs,” Briones said.

Family members of deceased organ, eye, and tissue donors at Valley Baptist are invited to send in a 5×7 photo of their loved one to display on the “Wall of Heroes.”

Photos may be mailed to Tina Briones at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen, 2101 Pease Street, Harlingen, 78550; or in Brownsville to Lydia Touchet, RN at Valley Baptist-Brownsville, 1040 W. Jefferson, Brownsville, 78520.

Family members of organ, eye, and tissue donors should also contact Briones or Touchet about signing a consent form to display their loved one’s photo in the hospital; Briones can be reached at (956) 389-1104 or by e-mail at Tina.Briones@ValleyBaptist.net, and Touchet at (956) 698-5519 or at Lydia.Touchet@ValleyBaptist.net.

Those who donate organs, eyes, and tissue are being honored as heroes because donated organs such as kidneys, liver, heart and lungs to improve the quality of life of others.

Bone and tissue transplants can restore movement to injured limbs or prevent an amputation. Donated eyes bring sight to the blind.

Also, very significantly in the Valley, donated kidneys can free a patient from dialysis.

For example, in 1997, now deceased Dr. Ruben Lopez, Cardiovascular Surgeon and Trauma Medical Director at Valley Baptist, helped save his own brother’s life (Regino Lopez) by donating one of his kidneys.

“We are all our ’brother’s keepers’ and we need to look out for one another,” Dr. Lopez said after his life-saving donation. “You don’t have to be a doctor to save a life – anyone can help save a life by simply signing an organ donor card.”

In addition to the other events, the Donate Life Texas Walk aimed at increasing donor awareness will be held at the Harlingen High School South Soccer Field on Saturday, April 1, 2017. Registration begins at 7 a.m. and the walk will begin at 8 a.m. and end at noon.