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Celebrating Black History Month with our Donate Life Ambassadors

This month we are highlighting some of the amazing people who make up our Donate Life Ambassador volunteer program; people who have been personally impacted by donation and transplantation. They pride themselves on serving their communities, with many advocating, educating, and sharing their personal stories about the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation. Take a look at some of their stories below.

Name: Daronta Briggs

DL Ambassador since: 2013

Relation to Donation: Donor Family/ Kidney transplant recipient 10/23/2012

My transplant surgeon [said] after [my] surgery. 'You didn't receive this kidney to sit in a rocking chair, start advocating.' I've lived my life since hearing those inspiring words. Advocating, educating, encouraging, and empowering veterans at local and out-of-state community events. Knowledge is the key to success for advocating. I love giving back and sharing my 'Second Chance At Life.’

Name: Katja Fort Rhoden

DL Ambassador since: 2021

Relation to Donation: Double lung transplant recipient and a parent to a child with advanced lung disease.

Healthcare can be hard to navigate for anyone, especially if you’re bi-racial, Black or a POC. Many tests have calculations based on race. I found this emotionally challenging as a bi-racial person; at times a solitary racial identity was chosen for me. I also witness that other Blacks and POC make up a significant percentage of the people in need while we can lag on the organ donation end. There are historical trust issues that need to be addressed. The positive is this creates many opportunities to increase awareness and to improve the transplant opportunities for our community. I sincerely hope I can add my voice and make efforts to make the transition process less scary and more accessible, especially for people that have been historically marginalized. When we know better, we do better.

Name: Kay Taylor

DL Ambassador since: 2010

Relation to Donation: I am a member of a donor family, my cousin was a donor and my aunt is also a cornea tissue recipient.

A big highlight for me as an Ambassador has been the discussions and dispelling myths by sharing my family’s personal story in the faith-based and Black communities.

Name: Danette Ragin

DL Ambassador since: 2011

Relation to Donation: Recipient, Donor Family and Mother of a Living Donor

My name is Danette Ragin. I am a 2-time kidney recipient who was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). Both transplants were performed at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. I am also a 3-time donor family member and the proud mom of a living donor. I received the first kidney from a deceased donor on June 22, 2008, who was traveling through Maryland with her family on vacation and experienced heart complications. My second kidney was donated to me by my youngest daughter, Angel, on December 20, 2016. I am thankful to God for both of my extended warranties. If it's positive and regarding transplantation count me in😃.

I would like to encourage anyone who has received any type of transplant, or is a donor family member and would like to be involved by giving back, to seek your local Donate Life chapter and volunteer. Opportunities will start to present themselves to you. and the rewarding feeling is astronomical.

Name: Sonia Taylor

DL ambassador since: 2008

Relation to Donation: Cornea recipient and Donor Family

Although I was blessed, years earlier, with a cornea to improve my vision, it wasn't until the death of my loved one and his ability to want to help people at a young age that I was able to see things clearer and understand my vision. I love sharing our story of organ, eye, and tissue donation. Thank you to Jordan Taylor Brown for giving the vision to see clearly. We are grateful that Jordan was able to give others a second chance at life. Thank you to the family that said yes, to allow me the ability to correct my vision.

Name: Angel Marque

Relation to Donation: Living Donor, Donor Family and daughter of a Kidney Recipient

I was able to give the gift of life to the very person who gave me life! My mother is a two-time kidney recipient. I was a sophomore in high school when mom received her first kidney transplant in the summer of 2008. During the day, while my Dad was working, I acted as her caretaker. In June 2016, my mother revealed to my sister and I that she needed a second kidney transplant. I instantly remembered the year 2008. I remembered how I felt when my mom first told me about her renal failure, and how she had kidney disease. I remember feeling helpless because there was nothing that I could do to help because I was too young. But I also remembered how strong my mother was, and how faithful and determined she was. Without a second thought or hesitation, I said, "I'll get tested and I'm going to give you my kidney.” After several weeks of completing blood samples, urinalysis, and other testing, we scheduled a surgery date for December 20, 2016.

Since our surgery, I have been even more of an advocate for organ, eye, and tissue donation. I am so appreciative to have had the opportunity to give my mom an extended warranty through the gift of life. Everyone calls me a hero, but the truth is, my mom has always been my hero, and I would do it all over again if I could. I encourage my peers, family, and friends to become organ donors, and explain the stigmas behind organ donation. It is very important to raise awareness of the benefits of being a living donor, and to simply share my story so that it may encourage someone else.

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