Leading the Way

Colonial Life executive knows value of organ donation

Spring is known as the season of rejuvenation and rebirth, when new life emerges. So, it’s no wonder National Donate Life Month is celebrated in April, reminding us of the need for organ and tissue donation.

Nearly 124,000 men, women and children are awaiting organ transplants in the United States.

Steve Vermette, vice president at Colonial Life, knows firsthand how donating an organ can give someone a second – even a third – chance at life.

Vermette donated a kidney to his mother, Gerri, in 2004. It was the second time Gerri had received a transplant from family.

In 1972, Gerri received her first kidney transplant from her mother, and according to Vermette, it was the second successful transplant in the country and the first in Maine.

“When the kidney started functioning properly, the doctors couldn’t believe it,” he said.  “Her first kidney survived 32 years, making her the longest-surviving kidney transplant patient in the state.”

Around 2003, however, Gerri’s kidney function declined, and she needed another one. Gerri’s brothers and sister were perfect matches, but all had high blood pressure and were excluded. That’s when Vermette learned he was a perfect match.

“It was my mom, so of course I was going to donate, but that didn’t stop me from being scared,” Vermette said. “But the way I see it, if you can give something that will prolong someone else’s life, push the fear aside and give away. That’s just who I am; I’ve always been a giving person.”

After Gerri’s first transplant, her goal was to see her sons graduate from high school. Thanks to two successful transplants, she far surpassed her original goal by attending her grandson’s college graduation.

Vermette’s mom passed away a few years ago at the age of 73. He remembers how much she loved being around people, spending time with her husband of 54 years, attending her grandchildren’s athletic events and hosting family get-togethers at their home.

Were it not for those two kidney transplants, Gerri’s life would likely have been much different, and harder because of her kidney disease.

Vermette has seen how being an organ donor can provide others with active and renewed lives and encourages everyone to find out more about organ donation. It’s as easy as visiting DonateLife.net.

“You can’t take them with you,” Vermette said about being a donor. “So you might as well help someone else live a normal and happy life.”

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