by Floyd Ivy, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
“When I received my organ in 2015,” said Amber Pettis, “I knew that my second chance at life came with responsibilities – to live life to its fullest, to share my story, to encourage organ donation and to take care of my organ by staying active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”
On Sunday (June 23), the 8th annual “Ride For Life” bicycle event, which is sponsored by the Mid-South Transplant Foundation, is set to begin at 7 a.m. Designed to promote organ and tissue donation awareness, it will feature adult riders navigating a 25-mile route through East Memphis and Downtown. A one-mile ride for children will be optional.
Pettis and the other cyclists will begin at Memorial Park Funeral Home & Cemetery, 5668 Poplar Ave. Event registration and participation includes SAG support, breakfast by the “Crepe Maker” and “Say Cheese,” a T-shirt, a finisher medal and a post-ride party.
When the mass of cyles starts to move, Pettis and seven other transplant recipients will be leading the pack. The New Tri State Defender talked with Pettis about her life-altering organ transplant.
Q: How did you come across Ride For Life? Do you feel that it’s beneficial to raising awareness of organ donation?
Amber Pettis: In my quest to fulfill …( my second-chance) responsibilities, I came across The Ride for Life. … (I)t allows me to do all three of those things that I feel that I am responsible for doing. I believe that it is absolutely beneficial to raising awareness in the community.
This ride is being led by eight organ recipients, who were all at one time facing death. Through organ donation, we now have the strength and endurance to lead a 25-mile ride through our community. This ride is direct, indisputable evidence that organ donation truly does save lives.
Q: What were your thoughts when you went to the doctor and found out it was end stage renal failure?
A.P.: Despite the sudden misfortune, I was still grateful that I had life and I was also grateful that organizations such as Mid-South Transplant Foundation existed within my community. When your diagnosis is organ failure, you can no longer help yourself. You can’t do it alone. Your life depends on the willingness of individuals in your community to become organ donors.
Q: Do you know who your donor was? Is there anything you would like to say?
A.P.: I had a deceased donor and I have not gotten the opportunity to meet my donor family. If I were to meet them, I’d simply like to offer a humble “thank you,” although I know that it can never erase the pain of losing a loved one. I am here today because my organ donor’s story ended too soon. There is not a day that goes by that I do not remember their kindness and sacrifice. I will forever be most grateful. His legacy continues through me.
Q: What are some ways that you try to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
A.P.: As an organ recipient, you never know how long you will have with that particular organ. But, I do my part. I am relentless when it comes to medication compliance, daily exercise and eating a balanced diet. My first investment of the day is prayer of thankfulness for having the opportunity to see another day. My second investment of the day is to my body and organ. My day starts around 4:20 a.m. and I am in the gym at 5 a.m. daily. I enjoy all things fitness from gym time to cycling to obstacle courses.
Q: What would you tell someone who is going through what you went through?
A.P.: I would encourage them to maintain their faith in God and remain positive. I would also encourage them to build a relationship with his or her OPO and make their community aware of the need.
(Randa Lipman is the community outreach manager for the Mid-South Transplant Foundation. For more details on “Ride For Life” or to register, visit www.MidsouthtransplantRFL.racesonline.com or www.midsouthtransplant.org.)