Donor, recipient share stories ahead of Donor Sabbath

By Amy Forbus
Editor

“Basically, it was one of those things where we thought that he had his whole life ahead of him…. That’s the last thing that you think, that your child is going to die.”

But four years ago, Melissa Morvin and her husband, Al, received news that no parent wants: Their 19-year-old son, Matt, had attempted suicide. They returned from out of town and hurried to his bedside; he lingered for three days before dying on Aug. 14, 2011.

Matt Morvin

Matt Morvin

During that devastating time, the Morvins, who are members of First United Methodist Church Arkadelphia, faced an important choice.

“The neurosurgeon was actually the one who came in and said, ‘Have you thought about organ donation?’” says Melissa Morvin. “My husband said, ‘Well, you know, Matt had talked to us about that when he got his driver’s license… he had signed up to be an organ donor, so yes, we would definitely be interested in donating his organs if he doesn’t make it.’”

At that point, a representative from the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA) became part of the conversation.

“We met with Natalie Mills from ARORA,” Morvin said. “She explained it to us, and we knew it was the right thing…. I couldn’t see that the blessing of this wouldn’t be smiled on by God.”

Matt Morvin and his family made a choice that is supported by the beliefs of a majority of the world’s religions. The United Methodist Church not only supports organ donation and transplantation, but it also encourages local churches to observe National Donor Sabbath each November.

‘A double-edged sword’

The Rev. Bill Sardin, associate pastor of First United Methodist Church Searcy, has designated himself as an organ donor on his driver’s license as long as it has been an option. He will observe Donor Sabbath Nov. 15 by leading his congregation in a responsive reading during worship, but that’s not all; he also will share the experience his family had when his mother, Lynn Richardson, became a transplant recipient earlier this year.

“It became this incredibly miraculous experience,” he said of his mother’s double lung transplant, “but it was also a heart-wrenching experience.”

Lynn Richardson

Lynn Richardson

Richardson, who had pulmonary fibrosis, agrees.

“I’m blessed, and whatever time it gives me, I kind of feel guilty that I rejoiced, and the lady that gave me the lungs, her family was going through a funeral,” she said. “They were coping with that while I was rejoicing. It’s a double-edged sword.”

Richardson has no doubt that God was involved in her transplant, as a number of factors must match between donor and recipient to make a transplant possible.

“I was never afraid,” she said. “I wasn’t afraid of dying—if that was what was going to happen, that was what God wanted. I was just in his hands.”

She has had no problems post-transplant, and expects to have one more follow-up test in the spring.

Sardin wrestled with a theological quandary as they waited for donor lungs to become available.

“At some point, you’re wondering, ‘How can I pray for my mother to receive these lungs knowing that someone has to die for her to receive them?’” he said. “But I think the turning point for me was when I realized I’m not praying for someone to die, I’m praying for God to do something miraculous out of a tragedy. And someone just like me that has believed in it their entire lives is able to offer this gift of life to another person.”

David Nichols, Hadleigh Jo Nichols, Courtney Nichols, Al Morvin, Melissa Morvin and Lance Morvin attended together a Donate Life dinner in Pasadena, Calif., just before the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade. Courtney Nichols rode in the parade, on the Donate Life float, in memory of her lung donor, Matt Morvin of Arkadelphia. COURTESY PHOTO

David Nichols, Hadleigh Jo Nichols, Courtney Nichols, Al Morvin, Melissa Morvin and Lance Morvin attended together a Donate Life dinner in Pasadena, Calif., just before the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade. Courtney Nichols rode in the parade, on the Donate Life float, in memory of her lung donor, Matt Morvin of Arkadelphia.
COURTESY PHOTO

Blessings and miracles

Today, while the Morvins still grieve, they also see the blessings and miracles that unfolded through Matt’s gifts to others. Seven people benefited from his organ and tissue donations.

After donating Matt’s organs, the Morvins made an additional decision: that they would be open to hearing from any recipients of Matt’s organs who wished to contact them. They have heard from several, including Courtney Nichols, who suffered from cystic fibrosis and received a double lung transplant from Matt.

“Courtney has actually kind of become a part of our family. She is like our extended family,” Morvin said. The two women talk often, and their families have even vacationed together. And because Matt’s gift provided life for Courtney, she and her husband were able to adopt a child.

“God’s blessing just keeps going,” Morvin said.

When she looks back on that dark time four years ago, Morvin realizes how little they knew of what would come from donating Matt’s organs.

“Now I can see how God has taken a tragedy such as this and has given us such blessings through Courtney and her wonderful, sweet family,” she said. “How awesome is the power of God?”


Resources for observing Donor Sabbath

  • The United Methodist Church encourages local congregations to observe Donor Sabbath, which in the U.S. is set two weekends before Thanksgiving. In 2015, Donor Sabbath weekend is Nov. 13-15. For information and resources for observing Donor Sabbath, visit www.organdonor.gov/materialsresources/donorsabbath.html.
  • “We believe that organ transplantation and organ donation are acts of charity, agape love, and self-sacrifice. We recognize the life-giving benefits of organ and other tissue donation and encourage all people of faith to become organ and tissue donors as a part of their love and ministry to others in need. We urge that it be done in an environment of respect for deceased and living donors and for the benefit of the recipients, and following protocols that carefully prevent abuse to donors and their families.” —2012 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, Social Principles, Paragraph 162W
  • To learn more about organ and tissue donation in Arkansas, including how to ensure you are signed up as an organ donor, visit the website for the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA).