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DMV, Donate Life Virginia celebrate siblings’ donations that saved two lives

Photo courtesy Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

Each day while working at the South Hill Department of Motor Vehicles Customer Service Center, Evon Walker asks Virginians a familiar question: would you like to register as an organ donor?

When she started working at DMV nearly 21 years ago, she never could’ve imagined that, one day, she’d be the recipient of an organ donation.

Fighting failing kidneys and a race against time, Evon desperately needed a transplant last year. The average person has two kidneys, but only needs one, so Evon’s sister, Carol Chapman, offered to donate, but she wasn’t a match. Evon’s doctors suggested a matched pair living donation in which Carol would donate her kidney to someone else who, in turn, would provide a family member willing to donate a matching kidney to Evon.

In Chesterfield County, brother and sister, Hughton Maye and Sophia Maye-Smith, were pursuing a similar match. Hughton desperately needed a new kidney. Sophia desperately wanted to help, but just wasn’t a match. But Sophia was a match for Evon, and Carol for Hughton.

Two stories have happy endings and Evon has something new to tell her customers at DMV.

“When they say, yes, I want to be an organ donor, I’ll say thank you. And sometimes they’ll look at me strange. And I say, ‘I’m saying, thank you because I’m a recipient, because someone agreed to be a donor.’ And they’ll say, ‘Oh, that is awesome.’” Evon said. “It’s like, when they can relate to a story, it helps them to accept it better. I’ll just tell them briefly, I’ve had a transplant, I had a new kidney, and you just can’t realize how much it changes a person’s life just to have that opportunity to have life again.”

For Sophia Maye-Smith, saying “yes” was simple.

“The fact that I could help him now, or anyone for that matter, that wasn’t debatable,” Sophia said.

Last year alone, more than 6,500 living donors saved lives in the United States. It is one important way to help the more than 110,000 people waiting for transplants across the country. In Virginia, 2,600 people are currently waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant.

According to Donate Life Virginia, a living donor may be a blood relative, spouse or friend. Some living donors are not related to or known by the recipient, but donate purely from selfless motives. Deceased donation, the most common form of organ donation, occurs when a patient has died and has registered as a donor or has been authorized by their family to donate. The entire month of April is recognized as National Donate Life Month.

DMV is the largest registrant of organ donors in the Commonwealth, having signed up 95 percent of those who’ve indicated to Donate Life Virginia their willingness to donate their organs, eyes or tissues upon their passing. The agency has supported organ donation since 1978.

“DMV wholeheartedly supports organ donation and the efforts of Donate Life Virginia,” said Acting DMV Commissioner Linda Ford. “Our employees know the value of that important question they ask customers each day because of family, friends and coworkers saved, just like Evon. It is one of the most important questions you’ll ever be asked.”

“On Living Donor Day, we honor living donors for saving lives and sparing their recipients from waiting longer for a transplant,” said Lara Malbon, executive director of Donate Life Virginia.

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