Parents Applaud LifeNet Organ Donation Effort


By Cindy Butler Focke


Princess Anne

Although their 8-year-old daughter, Melissa, died in 1991 in an accident at the Oceanfront, Don and Linda Chapman say they found solace in knowing their daughter helped others through tissue and organ donation.

“Missy was a loving and giving child,” Linda Chapman said. “This was a way we could love and give to somebody else.”

Last week, the Chapmans, who live in Lynnhaven, were among the guests applauding local officials who have helped save lives and improve the quality of life for many.

LifeNet Health sponsored the event held at its headquarters on Concert Drive.

A year ago, LifeNet Health, the nonprofit agency that provides organs and tissues for transplant, launched the Law Enforcement Partnership for Life Program.

It involves police officers and medical examiners in organ donation by encouraging them to call LifeNet Health’s donor center following the pronouncement of death at the scene of an accident.

Through the program, tissue donations from 64 individuals have included heart valves, bone for spinal fusions and tendons for knee replacements .

“A tissue donor can enhance up to 100 people’s lives,” Teresa Norrell , who coordinates the program for LifeNet Health, said.

Forty percent of deaths don’t take place in a hospital, she said, noting that law enforcers play a crucial role when they see the heart symbol on an individual’s driver’s license.

That indicates the person has agreed to be an organ, eye and tissue donor.

“We have a simple and important task,” said Master Police Officer Jeff Menago, a member of the city’s fatal crash team. “When I notice the heart symbol, I put the wheels in motion so that the deceased’s wishes are carried out.”

Norrell praised the police department for being the first in Virginia to create a mandatory referral policy and encouraged others to follow suit.

More than 20 certificates of appreciation were awarded to members of participating police departments – Virginia Beach, James City County, Hampton, Newport News and Chesapeake. The Tidewater Medical Examiner Office and sheriff’s departments of Accomack and Isle of Wight counties were recognized.

Patti Maloney of the Chesapeake police was commended for being the first officer to call in a referral under the new program, and investigator Rob Robinson of the medical examiner’s office was recognized for his commitment to the program.

“If you take on this program, it’s a little bit more work, but every once in a while you see letters of thanks,” he said. “It’s all worth it.”

Retired state trooper Dwight Gochenour spoke with emotion about his gift of sight, the corneal transplant he received in 1994, thanks to a Newport News police officer, who died in the line of duty.

“It made a huge difference in my life,” he said.

For more information on becoming an organ, eye and tissue donor, call 1-800-847-7831 or visit

Cindy Butler Focke, [email protected]

Originally published by BY CINDY BUTLER FOCKE.

(c) 2008 Virginian – Pilot. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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