SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Spartanburg County Deputy Austin Aldridge was an organ and tissue donor.
Officials with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office said Aldridge’s decision will help approximately 70 people in the future.
Now, many hope you too could help give another person a second chance at life.
“There’s no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend,” said Tracy Moore, CEO & Executive Director of Donate Life SC. “And I wanted to go beyond that and say also, giving the greatest gift of all, is the gift of life afterwards.”
Aldridge was a servant unto death, and after death will be a giver of new life.
“It didn’t surprise me. What I know about him and everything I’ve heard about him, that doesn’t surprise me at all. He was a great person and is a great person and it doesn’t shock me at all,” said Allison Johnson Miller.
Miller works at the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Aldridge died doing his job on Tuesday, protecting others.
“I just know him from coming into the office and at work and then just from everything that everybody’s talked about him, so it just doesn’t shock me at all that he was an organ donor,” Miller said.
Miller’s son, Keegan Johnson, was also an organ and tissue donor. He passed away two years after being diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. Miller said Johnson signed up to be a donor when he got his driver’s license.
“He checked the box. He gave his five-dollar donation and he signed up to be an organ donor. It is the most selfless gift that you can give. You can’t take them with you. That is the easiest thing that you can do, is to help somebody. Why would you not want to?” Miller said.
Johnson’s pancreas, both kidneys, heart, and liver, are now keeping four people alive.
“His bones, and valves, and tissue, are hundreds of people,” Miller said.
“When we realized that we were not going to get our miracle on this side of earth, we started asking them, because we wanted to honor his wishes. That was the last gift that he gave us that we could do for him,” Miller said.
It’s something people at Donate Life SC said is needed.
“I am always very grateful when anyone says yes to become an organ or a tissue donor, because I understand the incredible, critical need for it,” said Moore. “Right now, there’s over 114,000 individuals in America, waiting for an organ donation for a second chance at life.”
“Out of that, nearly 1,500 of those are right here in South Carolina – waiting for that phone call,” she said.
“So, I like to tell people that when you give, and you say yes, one donor can save up to eight people through organ donation and hundreds to thousands more through tissue donation,” Moore said.
Kim Perkins, from Anderson, received a call in 2013 for a pancreas transplant.
“In college, I was diagnosed was type one diabetes. It was a late-onset case. I very quickly went downhill and ended up in CCU and then the next seven to eight years were horrible,” said Perkins. “I was in and out of the hospital. I had high blood sugars, low blood sugar. I had nerve damage nerve damage to my stomach that didn’t allow my food to empty out of my stomach.”
Now, because of a 16-year-old donor who died in a swimming accident, Perkins is alive.
“Since my organ transplant, I no longer take insulin for my diabetes. I’ve been hospital free for the last nine years. I’ve gotten to see my son who was seven at the time. He’s now a happy, healthy teenage boy who is 16. So, I’ve gotten that many more years with my son, that I didn’t expect to get,” Perkins said.
Perkins hopes others will help out too.
“Some people die while they are waiting. If you can imagine Death Valley -Clemson’s football stadium – full of people, all waiting to continue living and saying no to that stadium full of people, ‘I can’t help you.’ That’s what surgeons and nurses and people on the wait list get told every day,” Perkins said.
“So, there’s no reason to say no. It doesn’t cost you anything, and it can in fact bring your family comfort in the future, out of a situation that has no hope in it,” Perkins said.
“The situation that has happened this past week in our state, it is – there’s no there’s no unreeling of something that tragic,” Perkins said. “And so we can only hope to bring some kind of comfort to the family in the future.”
Moore said there are three ways to register to be a donor in the state.
“The number one way, most people know about and remember, is through the South Carolina DMV offices when you get your driver’s licenses,” Moore explained. “At any time during the day or night, you can go to our website which is donatelifesc.org, and you can register.”
Moore also said you can also do it on your phone. She said for Apple users, you can register through the Health app on their phones.
Miller said she has spoken with three of the four recipients of her son’s donations.
“God placed his organs in these people, and their family got a second chance with them, and that blesses my heart because my son did that,” Miller said. “It’s just such a blessing to know that now, somebody is going to live on with Deputy Aldridge. It blesses my heart to know that his wife is going to have that same feeling in her heart, that now he lives on in somebody else.”
“Nobody else can give you that gift. It’s an unexpected gift, it’s the best gift, and it’s the gift of time,” Perkins said. “Nobody can give you that, but the community of organ donation.”